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Man is tied to Sylmar killing through restaurant receipt, LAPD says

A 23-year-old man pleaded not guilty on Monday in connection with the stabbing death of his neighbor, who was killed in Sylmar and discovered in a parked Lexus set ablaze.

Los Angeles police detectives tied Carlo Giuliano Cresci, a white man, to the killing through a restaurant receipt left in the car and other evidence, police said.

Cresci was charged with one count of murder and one count of arson with an allegation that he used a knife, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. He pleaded not guilty and is due back in court Oct. 8.

Jose Alberto Martinez, 26, was found dead inside his torched Lexus about 7:30 p.m. on May 24 in Sylmar. Martinez appeared to have been stabbed before the parked car was set ablaze near Harding Avenue and Foothill Boulevard.

Police believe that Cresci and Martinez were neighbors in Richmond, Calif., and that they traveled to Sylmar to visit Cresci’s grandmother, said LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon.

“There was some kind of a falling-out between the two during the trip,” he said.

Detectives found two significant clues in the car: a restaurant receipt and Martinez’s cellphone, Vernon said.  Police obtained security video at the restaurant showing Martinez dining with Cresci and Cresci’s grandparents the day before the killing, Vernon said.

Police also searched Martinez’s phone and interviewed people who connected the two. Cresci told police he didn’t know who Martinez was.

“That made us very suspicious,” Vernon said.

Detectives arrested Cresci in Northern California on Sept. 4, according to online Sheriff’s Department records.

“Basically, he’s doing probation right now,” Vernon said. “We stopped him and surprised him at his work release.”

Cresci is being held on $1-million bail. If convicted, he faces up to life in state prison.

Anyone with information is asked to call Mission Homicide Det. Ryan Verna at (818) 838-9976. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

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