A Blackhawk man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges stemming from the death of his wife in what authorities allege was a vicious hammer attack in the couple's home last month.
John Tercheria, 69, entered not guilty pleas to felony counts of murder and elder abuse, as well as denied a special allegation of using a deadly weapon, during a court appearance Tuesday in Martinez before Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Cheryl Mills, according to deputy district attorney Chris Walpole.
Tercheria, who remains in jail custody with bail set at $2.1 million, is set to return to court Oct. 18 for scheduling of a preliminary hearing in the case. His attorney, William Gagen, could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Linda Marie Tercheria, 69, was found dead by Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies the afternoon of Aug. 7 while they were responding to a suspicious circumstance report at the couple's home in the 4300 block of Quail Run Lane. The Blackhawk woman suffered more than 20 blows to the head from a hammer that was recovered by investigators, according to Walpole.
John Tercheria was arrested early the next morning, Aug. 8.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office initially also charged Tercheria with felony torture and a special circumstance of committing an especially heinous or cruel murder -- a special circumstance would have made the case eligible for the death penalty.
But after subsequent research, the DA's office determined a special circumstance of heinous murder -- which remains included in the California Penal Code -- had actually been deemed unconstitutional by the courts as too vague, so it was removed from the Tercheria case, Walpole said.
Prosecutors have also dropped the felony torture charge, with Walpole saying it would have been too difficult to prove given the facts of the case.
Tercheria, who was an accomplished senior softball player and had briefly played minor league baseball, spent a little more than a day out of jail after his initial arrest in the case.
He posted $1 million bail the afternoon of his arrest, but sheriff's deputies obtained a new warrant for his arrest after subsequent investigation. He was detained on that warrant at a home in Dublin the night of Aug. 9 and booked into jail with bail set at $2.1 million, according to the sheriff's office.