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Man pleads not guilty in girlfriend's death from homemade mortar

March 8, 2012 |  5:45 pm

A 39-year-old unemployed handyman with a history of weapons and spousal abuse convictions pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder in the death of his live-in girlfriend at their trailer in a rural part of eastern San Diego County.

Bail was set at $3.5 million for Richard Fox in the death of Jeanette Ogara, 38. He has a history of failing to appear for other court appearances, the judge noted.

Prosecutors said Fox and Ogara and several friends had been drinking when Fox stepped outside the trailer just after midnight Tuesday to ignite a homemade artillery device. Ogara remained inside.

Ogara was killed instantly when shrapnel from the device rocketed through the couple's trailer in Potrero and struck her in the chest. 

Deputy Dist. Atty. C.J. Mody said the device initially was described as a cannon but is more accurately described as a homemade mortar, a 26-inch-long metal tube that was packed with metal shards and then ignited with gunpowder.

Fox was injured in the explosion and taken to a hospital. He has since been charged with murder, use of an explosive device causing death and child abuse, all felonies. The couple's 4-year-old daughter was asleep inside and unharmed.

Fox appeared on a live-feed video during the arraignment in the El Cajon branch of San Diego County Superior Court. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

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