- Associated Press - Monday, March 13, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey man pleaded not guilty Monday to killing three young women and attempting to kill a fourth, and a prosecutor said it’s unlikely the defendant will get a plea bargain.

Khalil Wheeler-Weaver entered the plea through his attorney at a brief court appearance. The 20-year-old wore glasses and a light blue shirt with his hands cuffed behind his back, and he didn’t speak during the proceeding.

When asked whether his office would offer a deal to Wheeler-Weaver, Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Adam Wells said he would be “surprised if he would take a plea that would satisfy us.”

Wells stopped short of designating Wheeler-Weaver a serial killer, though he said others might use the term based on their own definition.

According to the indictment, Wheeler-Weaver killed 19-year-old Philadelphia resident Robin West on Sept. 1 in Orange, an economically struggling city of 33,000 outside New York City. He allegedly started a fire at the vacant house where he dumped her body in an attempt to hide his crime.

Joanne Brown, 33, of Newark, was last seen Oct. 22 in Orange, and a work crew found her body Dec. 5 at a vacant house there.

Sarah Butler, a 20-year-old New Jersey City University student from Montclair, was reported missing Nov. 23. Her body was found buried under leaves and debris in a park in nearby West Orange, on Dec. 1.

Wheeler-Weaver was charged in the deaths of Butler and Brown in December, and the grand jury in February indicted him in West’s death. The indictment also charges him with kidnapping, sexually assaulting and attempting to kill a 34-year-old woman in November. The Associated Press does not name alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent.

Shevelle McPherson, an attorney representing Wheeler-Weaver, said after Monday’s hearing that her client “has a lot of family support” from his mother, stepmother and siblings.

“He’s remained strong, faithful and confident that we’re going to be able to do a good job for him,” she said. “He’s in a pretty good state of mind considering what the allegations are.”

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