A Wildomar woman accused of gunning down her boyfriend during a confrontation at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and other charges.
Maria Santos Vihnanek, 31, is eligible for the death penalty if convicted as charged of killing 49-year-old Keith Rodman of Los Angeles, who fathered her 6-month-old child. However, District Attorney Spokesman John Hall tells Patch that the DA's office hasn't decided if they will pursue that penalty.
Along with the murder count, Vihnanek is charged with child endangerment and faces a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, as well as gun and great bodily injury allegations. The special circumstance of lying in wait is what makes the woman potentially eligible for death, according to Hall.
The defendant appeared in Murrieta before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer, who appointed her a public defender and set a felony settlement conference in the case for March 10.
Vihnanek remains in custody without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
The defendant allegedly confronted Rodman as he strode through the casino lobby shortly before 11 p.m. Friday and then opened fire on the victim, who died at Temecula Valley Hospital about 90 minutes later of multiple gunshot wounds.
Vihnanek fled back to her room at the resort, where she had left her child, according to sheriff's Sgt. Mike Manning.
He said the defendant suffered a "self-inflicted injury," but did not elaborate. Deputies located her the following day and arrested her without incident. She was treated at a hospital and booked into jail.
The baby, who was not injured, was placed in the custody of county child protective services.
A possible motive for the shooting was not cited.
— City News Service contributed to this report.