A former professional boxer already facing trial in the beating death of an 18-month old girl pleaded not guilty in a Hawaii court last week to strangling the baby's mother.
Xavier "Pee Wee" Cortez Jr., 39, was charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 20, 2011, killing of his former girlfriend, 20-year-old Sommer Ferreira. She witnessed her 18-month old daughter's January 2011 beating death, for which Cortez is charged with second-degree murder, authorities said.
Cortez, who had shared an apartment with Ferreira and her daughter Pomaikai Ferreira, was taken into custody in 2011, the day Pomaikai was taken to a hospital on the Big Island with breathing difficulty. She died in a Honolulu hospital a week later.
A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide after observing craniocerebral injuries due to severe head trauma.
Police later released Cortez without charging him, pending further investigation.
On Sept. 20, 2011 -- less than nine months after the toddler's death -- Ferreira was found dead in the laundry room of the home that she and Cortez shared. Police said at the time they didn't suspect foul play, but later said they considered the death suspicious, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.
Meanwhile, investigators reopened their probe of Ferreira's death as a homicide, saying they had received new information. They wouldn't elaborate. A grand jury indicted Cortez on a charge of first-degree murder on Feb. 11. Bail was increased to $2 million.
If convicted, he faces a possible life sentence without parole.
Cortez has a criminal history that includes domestic abuse of his sister, child neglect and at least six misdemeanor convictions.
Trial in the killing of Pomaikai is set for May 18. Trial in the death of Ferreira is set to start eight days later.