Novato murder suspect doesn't enter plea

July 15, 2009 6:13:00 PM PDT
Emotions are running high in the case of a porn producer's son who is accused of murder. The suspect is 29-year-old James Mitchell. He was in court on Wednesday on charges of fatally beating his estranged girlfriend Danielle Keller in Novato.

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The victim's mother said she is still undergoing the process of gaining full custody of her 1-year-old granddaughter. A close friend of the victim shared how she felt.

"Seeing him, all I see is the man who beat my friend to death, so seeing his face is obviously horrifying. We don't want to see him, we're here for Danielle," said Gina Stahl-Ricco.

Mitchell began his arraignment process on Wednesday for the murder of his former girlfriend, 29-year-old Danielle Keller. He's accused of beating her with a baseball bat Sunday evening at her home in Novato, and then kidnapping their daughter Samantha, who turned 1-year-old that day. The baby was unharmed and is still in child protective custody.

The suspect is the son of San Francisco porn king Jim Mitchell, who was convicted of killing his brother Artie in 1991.

The judge decided not to allow any cameras in the courtroom. The district attorney said he was concerned it could taint the collection of evidence. Mitchell family friend and defense attorney Terence Hallinan said he is still reviewing evidence.

"We want to have an opportunity to look at all of the reports and see exactly what evidence on the various counts is -- there's five counts -- before we decide what we want to do on a plea," said Hallinan.

"We will be pressing to have a plea entered because the process has to start. The discovery is always something that is ongoing and will be happening between now and future court dates," said Marin Co. District Attorney Ed Berberian.

The victim's mother says this is a tragedy that should have never happened, but that Mitchell disregarded restraining orders.

Mitchell remains in jail on no bail. A formal plea hearing has been set for next week.

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