Crime - Sacto 911

North Highlands pedestrian accused of killing motorist unable to make court date

The man accused in the slashing death of a North Highlands woman last week will return to a Sacramento courtroom Tuesday after it was determined Monday he could not be safely moved from his cell to the courtroom.

Juan V. Avalos, 28, suspected in the killing of Nichole Riolo, 32, has been held without bail at Sacramento County jail since his arrest early on April 23. Hours earlier, late on April 22, Avalos was walking in the roadway on Watt Avenue as Riolo drove south.

Riolo then stopped her vehicle, but it is unclear why; authorities have speculated that she may have thought she clipped Avalos or that he threw something at her vehicle. She then approached Avalos, Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies said.

Investigators allege Avalos attacked Riolo from behind, slashing her throat as she walked back to her car. Riolo managed to get to a nearby parking lot, where she died. Sheriff’s officials said Avalos appeared to be intoxicated or suffering from mental health issues when he was arrested.

More than a dozen members of Riolo’s family and friends gathered outside the jailhouse courtroom Monday afternoon for what was to be Avalos’ first court date in Riolo’s death. They left the hearing angry after being told by Sacramento Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens that Avalos was in custody but “unsafe to be transported to court this afternoon.”

“My sister is dead,” Riolo’s sister-in-law, Kristin Ryan, shouted in the hallway outside the courtroom as family tried to calm her.

Outside the jail where Avalos is being held in her sister-in-law’s killing, Ryan’s anger had barely abated.

“I want to see the face of the person who took her life away,” Ryan said. “For them to continue this – it’s not right. It only hurts everyone involved.”

Avalos’ arraignment is set for Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court.

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.