An ex-con accused of murder in the strangling death of a Kingston jewelry maker pleaded not guilty to the crime Wednesday, officials said.
Audelis Cruz, 49, of Kingston, entered the plea on a single count of second-degree murder before Kingston City Court Judge Lawrence E. Ball and was returned to Ulster County Jail without bail, a court official said.
Cruz will return to court for a preliminary hearing at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, officials said.
Police say Cruz strangled Anita Jacobs-Royer, 45, at her Third Avenue home Feb. 1. They found the body on the afternoon of Feb. 3 after a worried relative who hadn't heard from her in days asked them to check on her, police said. An autopsy Feb. 4 determined she had been strangled.
Cruz and Jacobs-Royer knew each other, Ulster County District Attorney D. Holley Carnright told Newsday Westchester on Wednesday, but he declined to comment on the nature of their relationship. "They weren't strangers," Carnright said. "We want to put it out there for the public that this was not a random attack."
Carnright said investigators have determined a motive but declined to discuss it. "We'll have more to say once there's an indictment," Carnright said.
The slaying triggered an intense manhunt by Kingston police and a host of other law enforcement agencies. Investigators traced Cruz to New York City and spent four days there looking for him, finally arresting him Sunday on a Manhattan subway platform.
Under questioning by detectives, Cruz admitted to the killing, police said.
Cruz was released from prison in June 2012 and was on parole after serving 11 years in state prison for first-degree robbery, according to a state database. He served seven years in state prison from 1986 to 1993 on a previous first-degree robbery charge, according to the database.
At the time of her death, Jacobs-Royer was in the process of divorcing her husband, Scott Royer of Saugerties, an employee of Kingston City Schools, authorities have said.
A wake for the New Jersey native and SUNY New Paltz graduate is scheduled for Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Keyser Funeral Services & Cremation of Kingston. A funeral will follow there at 7 p.m., according to her obituary at the funeral home, and she will be buried at Wiltwyck Cemetery in Kingston.
Chief Assistant District Attorney John Tobin is prosecuting. Cruz is represented by Ulster County Public Defender Andrew Kossover, who did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.