Joanna Bird murder suspect pleads not guilty

A judge ordered the man accused of torturing and killing a New Cassel mother held without bail Friday after he pleaded not guilty. Police say Leonardo Valdez-Cruz fatally stabbed Joanna Bird, his ex-girlfriend,

News 12 Staff

May 29, 2009, 11:24 PM

Updated 5,530 days ago

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A judge ordered the man accused of torturing and killing a New Cassel mother held without bail Friday after he pleaded not guilty.
Police say Leonardo Valdez-Cruz fatally stabbed Joanna Bird, his ex-girlfriend, in March. He is charged with first-degree murder. Bird's family says Valdez-Cruz repeatedly violated an order of protection prior to the murder. Seven Nassau County police officers face disciplinary hearings for their handling of the domestic violence calls involving Bird and Valdez-Cruz.
Valdez-Cruz proclaimed his innocence on his way out of court Friday, saying ?When I go to trial, I?ll be acquitted of all charges.?
Also Friday, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice made her first public comments about the case. She called Bird?s death a terrible tragedy. Rice?s office has come under attack from Bird?s family for not pursuing kidnapping charges against Valdez-Cruz stemming from a January 2009 incident. According to Rice, when Bird refused to testify against Valdez-Cruz, the case collapsed.
Bird?s family contends she wasn?t given the chance to testify. They say if Valdez-Cruz had been locked up earlier, Bird would still be alive. The family is considering a lawsuit against the district attorney?s office.
Valdez-Cruz will remain at the Nassau County Jail until he is due back in court on Sept. 1. If convicted, Valdez-Cruz could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.


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