An Escondido man accused in the stabbing death of a Palm Desert woman is scheduled to return to court Friday in Indio.
Richard Colin Holbrook, 21, pleaded not guilty last week to a first-degree murder charge arising from the slaying of Nicole Henderson, 33, of Palm Desert. He also denied the sentence enhancement allegation of committing a felony with a weapon, in this case, a knife, court records show.
The denial came after an awkward series of events in which Holbrook appeared to have sought to admit his guilt to Riverside County Superior Court Judge Burke Strunsky, drawing the ire of his defense attorney, who quickly silenced him.
“I’d like to plead guilty,” Holbrook said.
The admission came well after the part in the arraignment when defendants state their plea It happened as Strunsky was informing Holbrook that by agreeing to a continuence, he would be waiving his right to a speedy preliminary hearing. Holbrook’s attorney, Sean F. Leslie of Carlsbad, had already entered a not-guilty plea earlier in the hearing on his client’s behalf.
After Holbrook’s comment, Leslie quickly asked Strunsky for a moment in the hall to speak to his client, which was granted.
Upon their return, Strunsky called for a five-minute break to meet in a back hallway with Leslie and the deputy district attorney on the case, Carrie McCurdy. Upon their reentry, Leslie again pleaded not guilty on his client’s behalf.
Strunsky then ordered Holbrook to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Following Friday’s felony settlement conference, Holbrook’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday, which could include additional information about the prosecution’s case against Holbrook, including possible witness testimony.
Riverside County sheriff’s deputies responding to an assault-with-a- deadly-weapon call found Henderson with “significant trauma” to her body around 3:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in the 45200 block of Panorama Drive in Palm Desert. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Deputies arrested Holbrook near the intersection of Sunrise Lane and Abronia Trail, a few blocks from where Henderson was found dead, according to jail records.
Investigators indicated the victim and the defendant knew each other, but wouldn’t comment on the nature of the relationship.
Holbrook is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.