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Man pleads not guilty

JACKSON -- A man implicated in the 1997 kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Gregory "Sky" Erickson pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday afternoon in Jackson County District Court, which means the case may now head to trial as soon as Jan. 4, 2011.

Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez, 40, also known as Ricardo Castillo, was charged in February with aiding and abetting in the second-degree murder of the teenager in June 1997. Erickson was kidnapped in Spencer, Iowa, by members of a gang, the Los Crazy Boys (LCB), who murdered him in a rural farm house in Petersburg Township, Jackson County.

Nine other defendants in the case have been tried and convicted. The case stems from an alleged debt of $1,400 for marijuana fronted or advanced to Erickson, and Castillo-Alvarez allegedly arranged for his kidnapping and death.

After being implicated, Castillo-Alvarez fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution, but was extradited back to the United States in 2006 to stand trial in Iowa. He was convicted in Clay County, Iowa, for aiding and abetting murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, but the conviction was later overturned on appeal because of speedy trial violations.

Castillo-Alvarez requested a speedy trial in Jackson County, which means the case could be heard as soon as January. Testimony and argument is expected to last approximately 11 days, but Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank could not say how many witnesses were expected to take the stand.

A pretrial conference will be scheduled for some time in December.