Man pleads not guilty to murder of 15-year-old girl

Gerardo Rodriguez appears during his arraignment for murder in Kern County court in Bakersfield, Calif., Thursday, April 20, 2017. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

The man charged with murdering a 15-year-old girl pleaded not guilty in court Thursday.

Police arrested 23-year-old Gerardo Rodriguez last week. They say he strangled Stacy Duke in a south Bakersfield garage.

The charge comes with a special circumstance, as the Kern County District Attorney's Office believes the murder was committed in the commission of a rape or attempted rape. Rodriguez would be eligible for the death penalty if convicted because of the special circumstance.

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