By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A California man pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a charge of murdering a 21-year-old woman whose body was found stuffed into a suitcase on a San Diego street, as prosecutors told the court that the victim was beaten and strangled to death in his apartment.
Joshua Palmer, 33, is also accused of shoving the body of victim Shauna Haynes into a wheeled valise and leaving it near a line of trash cans, Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle said during a hearing in San Diego Superior Court.
Doyle said Palmer also wiped down his apartment, threw away his clothes and sent misleading text messages from Haynes' phone to fool her friends and family into thinking she was alive.
Palmer and Haynes were both employed at the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant in San Diego. Prosecutors have not said what may have motivated the grisly crime. Doyle told the court Palmer and Haynes were "platonic friends" who had gone out last week.
After their night out, Palmer took Haynes back to his apartment "where he beat her and strangled her to death, stuffed her in a suitcase and left her out like the trash," Doyle said.
Palmer was arrested on Friday, two days after Haynes' body was discovered in the black travel bag by a hotel worker. He was charged with murder and a judge ordered him held on $2 million bail. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted at trial.
(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Alan Crosby and Grant McCool)