MAYS LANDING, N.J. (AP) — Nearly a year after an Atlantic City casino patron celebrating his daughter’s 22nd birthday was carjacked in a parking garage and stabbed to death, the New Jersey couple accused of murdering him and burning his vehicle pleaded innocent Monday.

Craig Arno, 45, of Atlantic City, and Jessica Kisby, 25, of Egg Harbor Township, face charges of murder, felony murder, carjacking and kidnapping. Each appeared briefly in state Superior Court to formally enter not guilty pleas.

They are accused of carjacking Martin Caballero, a 47-year-old supermarket manager from North Bergen, from the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort garage, then stabbing him to death and dumping his body in May 2010.

Assistant Prosecutor James McClain said the crime was random and the suspects did not know Caballero before attacking him.

“It’s a horrific series of crimes, not just a single crime,” the prosecutor said outside the courtroom.

Caballero’s family filled the front row of spectators inside the courtroom, but declined to speak with reporters after the hearing was over.

If convicted on the murder charges, the defendants could face life without parole.

Caballero had just dropped his wife and daughters off at the entrance to the Taj Mahal on the night of May 21, 2010, and drove into the parking garage looking for a safe place to leave his beloved white Lincoln MKS. His family never saw him again.

Ten days later, his remains were found in a farmer’s field about 30 minutes west of Atlantic City.

The suspects were arrested May 28, 2010, at the Golden Key Motel in Egg Harbor Township, just outside Atlantic City. The bodies of four murdered prostitutes were discovered behind the motel in a drainage ditch 4 ½ years ago; that case is unsolved.

Authorities have said surveillance video from the garage shows Kisby and Arno approaching Caballero’s vehicle in a silver Toyota, getting out and engaging in a physical fight with him. The three eventually left the garage in two cars, including Caballero’s.

Authorities said Kisby and Arno drove Caballero’s car to the Inlet section of Atlantic City and later traveled on the Atlantic City Expressway, getting off in Hamilton Township.

Caballero’s remains were found on a farm there, just off the expressway, and his vehicle was found torched in Camden County.

Shortly after his arrest, Arno appeared in court with a reddened face, a heavily bandaged right hand. Hair from both sides of his head appeared to be freshly shaved off.

Both suspects also were charged with aggravated arson and hindering apprehension, relating to the burning of the victim’s vehicle.

The prosecutor’s office said the two cars got off the expressway in Pleasantville, where a Bic lighter and $5 worth of gas were bought at a Wawa convenience store. A woman from one of the cars borrowed a gasoline container at a gas station, the prosecutor said last year.

A surveillance camera at a nearby bank shows a man identified by authorities as Arno making a withdrawal from an automated teller machine using Caballero’s bank card.

Arno and Kisby are being held in opposite sides of the state following incidents last year in which they allegedly tried to communicate with each other while both were being held in the Atlantic County Jail. Kisby was moved to the Salem County Jail after writing letters to Arno and allegedly seeking to recruit inmates to pass messages between them.

She is now being held at the Cape May County Jail, while Arno is being held in a state prison in Trenton.

The next scheduled court hearing in the case is June 20.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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