LANCASTER – A 24-year-old man charged with murdering his roommate pleaded not guilty Tuesday in an Antelope Valley courtroom.
Nicholas Brian Harper was arraigned before Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Robert McSorley and was represented by Deputy Public Defender John Cho.
After pleading not guilty to a single count of murder, Harper was ordered back to custody on $2 million bail with a preliminary hearing set for April 18.
Harper stands accused of shooting and killing his roommate, James McElroy, 21, on Feb. 7 inside their apartment at the Parkwood Patio apartment complex in the 38000 block of 20th Street East in Palmdale.
Deputies from the Palmdale Station responded to the apartment complex around 8:50 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7, after receiving a call about gunshots coming from a residence, according to Lieutenant Mary Leef of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau.
McElroy was discovered at the location with a gunshot wound to the upper torso, Leef said.
He was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead at 9:44 p.m., according to Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter.
Harper was detained at the scene and the firearm believed to be used in the shooting was also recovered from the scene, officials said.
Harper reportedly claimed the shooting was accidental and was originally arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.
He was briefly released from custody on Feb. 14, and then re-interviewed by detectives, and re-arrested for murder that same day.
“We found conflicts with his statements and conflicts with the forensics examination, which is still ongoing,” said sheriff’s homicide detective Dan McElderry at the time.
On Feb. 16, Harper’s bail was raised to $2 million, and he has since remained in custody.
McElroy’s relatives and friends have insisted from the outset that Harper murdered McElroy over jealousy. Read the family’s story here.
Tuesday several of McElroy’s family members sat in the courtroom to witness Harper’s arraignment.
“It kind of hurt me that he said not guilty because we know he did it,” said McElroy’s mother, Clemmie Graves. “I’m waiting for the preliminary hearing so they could put everything on the table and then they’ll see that it really is true, that he really did do it.”
Harper is due back in court on April 18 for a preliminary hearing.