VAN NUYS — A Santa Monica man accused of killing his girlfriend whose body was recently discovered in the trunk of her car pleaded not guilty to murder charges on Tuesday.
Adel Tabrizi Chapel, 24, was arraigned at Van Nuys Courthouse for the murder of Denise Figueroa, 22, of North Hills, who was found dead inside of a black Nissan Altima in Valley Village on Saturday after KTLA notified police when it received an anonymous fax tipping off the victim’s whereabouts.
His bail has been set at $1 million.
Chapel was already in police custody on an unrelated carjacking incident that took place the last week in February in West L.A. when he was charged with one count of murder with the special allegation that he personally used a deadly weapon — a hammer — to kill the victim. He was booked by the Los Angeles Police Department on March 3.
The suspect is also believed to be involved in several armed robberies in the San Fernando Valley, said LAPD Officer Ana Aguirre. More charges could follow this week in connection to the robberies.
Police said they have little information about the suspect, including whether he was employed, had children or how long he had a relationship with the victim.
According to the victim’s family, Figueroa was last seen on Feb. 28 in the company of Chapel, Aguirre said.
“There was no fear or threat (perceived by the family) at that point,” Aguirre said. “It wasn’t until she was determined to be missing when they were looking for answers from him.”
The letter faxed to KTLA, sent by a person who identified themselves as “someone trying to help,” stated that Chapel was believed to be the person who killed Figueroa on Feb. 28, adding that the vehicle was cleaned up by the suspect and his friend, Christopher Bullock.
The fax continued by identifying the location of the car — within a 1.2-2 square mile radius of 11911 Magnolia Blvd. in Valley Village — and even specifying that Figueroa’s body was inside of a black trash bag, according to a copy of the letter posted on KTLA’s Web site.
The car was found in the 11700 block of Hortense Street, about a mile from the address indicated in the fax.
Bullock was questioned and later released, according to KTLA.
Detectives are asking the sender of the letter to come forward and assist in the murder investigation.
Chapel is due back in court on March 26 to set his preliminary hearing.