The man accused of bludgeoning to death his ex-girlfriend and her mother at their south Sacramento home was formally charged with two counts of murder Thursday and could face the death penalty.
Jose Guadalupe Barrera, 21, is accused of inflicting fatal head blows to Kelly Ann Johnson, 19, and Sharon Ann Johnson, 49.
The deaths were the first homicides reported in Sacramento County in 2007.
Barrera appeared Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court dressed in orange jail clothes and acting subdued inside a courtroom holding cell.
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Through the bars, he spoke quietly to a Spanish-language interpreter.
Judge Ronald Tochterman read the charges against Barrera including two counts of murder with the special circumstance of multiple homicides.
The charges make Barrera eligible for the death penalty if convicted or for life in prison without parole.
Deputy District Attorney Noah Phillips said the DA's office had not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty against Barrera.
The case began at 7:34 Tuesday morning when sheriff's deputies received a call from a man they say was Barrera. He reported that two people had been shot at a house in the 5200 block of 53rd Avenue.
Deputies arrived at the house and talked to Barrera by cell phone. He agreed to come out and appeared calm, sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Tim Curran said Tuesday.
Inside the house, deputies found the women's bodies in a back bedroom.
A weapon used to bludgeon them was also allegedly recovered, though investigators did not describe it.
Deputies also found other occupants of the house unharmed, including a 7-month-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. Both were children of Kelly Johnson, and the infant was Barrera's son with Johnson, according to the Sheriff's Department.
A 16-year-old boy, Johnson's brother, was also in the house and uninjured. He said he was asleep during the attacks.
Authorities have not disclosed a motive for the killings.
Deputies said they responded to a domestic-violence call at the house last August after Barrera refused to leave.
Barrera pleaded no contest in August to a misdemeanor charge of battery against a cohabitant, according to court records, and received 3 years of probation.
In 2004 he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of possession of an assault rifle and was on probation for that crime as well, court records show.
The judge appointed the Sacramento Public Defender's Office to represent Barrera.
Barrera did not enter a plea Thursday. He was ordered to return to court on Jan. 18.
He is being held without bail.