Suspects in Rio Dell homicide plead not guilty

Duo set to be back in court for hearing later this month

Alma Bernice Ahumada-Mendoza and Demetrius Coleman pleaded not guilty to charges related to the death of Rio Dell resident Johnny Renfro on Aug. 29, 2019. Coleman pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder on Monday and Ahumada-Mendoza pleaded not guilty to knowingly harboring a fugitive on Tuesday. (Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office)
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Two suspects who were arrested in North Dakota for the shooting death of a Rio Dell man pleaded not guilty to the crime in court this week.

Demetrius Coleman, 39, of Eureka, pleaded not guilty at the Humboldt County courthouse on Monday to the Aug. 29, 2019, murder of 26-year-old Johnny Renfro, a native of Texas. Alma Ahumada-Mendoza, 22, of Rio Dell, pleaded not guilty to knowing about the crime after it was committed at the courthouse on Tuesday. Coleman is charged with committing the homicide; Ahumada-Mendoza faces allegations of being an accessory after the crime was committed.

Ahumada-Mendoza’s attorney, Wade Orbelian, of the Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office, argued Ahumada-Mendoza should be released on her own recognizance. Her bail hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 13.

Both Coleman and Ahumada-Mendoza’s preliminary hearings are scheduled for 9:15 a.m. on Feb. 24.

Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Schaffer was representing the people before Judge Lawrence Killoran.

The Rio Dell Police Department sent out a release following the homicide investigation stating at about 6:30 p.m. Renfro “was driving on Monument Road when he pulled to the curb and got out of his car.” That’s when the driver of a dark car fired multiple shots at Renfro, striking him once in the abdomen.

Renfro was later pronounced dead at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.

About a month later, the Rio Dell Police identified Coleman as a person of interest after finding the car suspected to be used in the crime and other pieces of evidence, such as mobile phones and computers, according to a Rio Dell press release.

Coleman was arrested in North Dakota on Jan. 26 and Ahumada-Mendoza was arrested a few days later on Jan. 28, according to news reports from North Dakota.

Coleman is being held without bond and Ahumada-Mendoza is being held on $500,000 bond.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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