SEATTLE — A man accused of drunkenly shooting his wife to death during an Uber ride in Seattle pleaded not guilty Thursday to second-degree murder.
Cameron Espitia, 31, who is jailed on $3 million bail, told investigators he had been drinking and "having a bad night" but didn't remember what happened during the ride July 2, according to charging documents.
Authorities said he was sitting in the back of the ride-hailing vehicle and his wife, Jennifer Morrison Espitia, 29, was in the front passenger seat.
The driver described hearing a bang and seeing the woman slumped over. The couple had been arguing about whether to attend a wedding after-party, deputy King County prosecutor Jessica Berliner wrote in court papers.
"The defendant decided he was going to 'cut loose' at a wedding," she wrote. "Despite the fact that he was armed with a loaded firearm, he consumed numerous alcoholic drinks and argued with his wife when she wanted him to go home instead of proceeding to the after-party."
Espitia was flanked by two attorneys, Joseph Alvarado and Kevin McCabe, during his arraignment before Judge Sean O'Donnell in King County Superior Court. McCabe entered the plea on his behalf.
Espitia, a Coast Guard employee with no criminal history, spoke only to confirm his identity. He faces up to 23 years if convicted.
Relatives and friends of the couple packed the courtroom but left without speaking to reporters. Jennifer Espitia's sister cried out as the prosecutor recited the charge.
The Uber driver kept driving after the shooting because he feared for his life, police said. Eventually, he pulled over and Espitia got out; the driver then drove another block, stopped and called 911.
Officers found Espitia nearby. He had apparently fallen in some bushes, his suit was dirty and he had dried blood on his shoulder, police said. He also had a handgun in an ankle holster, authorities said.
He told detectives he couldn't remember what happened during the ride, but he repeatedly asked how his wife was doing, charging documents said.
Jennifer Espitia graduated from Mercer Island High School in Washington state and was on the rowing team at Saint Mary's College in California, according to a college athletics biography.
She had won a community-service award for work as a peer educator at Planned Parenthood, working at a day care center and building homes in Mexico.
Jennifer Espitia had attended high school with the couple whose wedding the Espitias attended, police said.