ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - Three Albuquerque teenagers pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of first-degree murder in the beating deaths of two homeless American Indian men that shocked New Mexico's biggest city.
Alex Rios, 18, and two other suspects aged 16 and 15 are being tried as adults and face life in prison if convicted for the July 18 attack, which disfigured the victims so badly it took days for them to be identified.
Police say the three teenagers set about the homeless men after finding them sleeping in an abandoned lot, beating them with kicks, punches, iron bars and cinder blocks.
According to a criminal complaint filed by a detective, one of the teenagers confessed to officers they had beaten more than 50 people in random attacks over the past year. They are being held on $1 million bond each.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry set up a task force after the killings to try to address the problem of chronically homeless American Indians in the city, whom studies show are more at risk than others from street violence.
(Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Eric Beech)