CARLSBAD — A Mexican man accused of killing and raping an 84-year-old woman in 2001 pleaded not guilty March 4 in a Vista courtroom. Prosecutors allege Alejandro Avalos Fernandez, 33, murdered Gladys Conrad, a retired psychiatrist, during a sexual assault in her Carlsbad-by-the-Sea residence on Sept. 1, 2001. Fernandez, a Mexican national, was extradited to the United States from Mexico on March 2. Authorities arrested him Jan. 23, 2009, in Mexico City. He remains in custody without bail. Police have also linked Fernandez to a Los Angeles area attempted rape case involving a 64-year-old woman. In 2004, DNA from Conrad’s case was matched to DNA from an unknown suspect in the Los Angeles case. The suspect, however, remained unidentified until 2007 when Fernandez was arrested on a narcotics charge in Los Angeles. He had been released from custody before his DNA was entered into a database and matched to the two crimes. “We are satisfied that the person responsible for this heinous crime is finally being brought to justice, especially for the family and the community’s sake,” Investigations Lt. Kelly Cain said in a statement. “This arrest is a great example of how successful investigations can be with regional cooperation.” Fernandez is charged with one felony count each of first-degree murder, rape, sodomy by force relating to Conrad’s death as well as torture, assault with the intent to commit a felony and attempted raped in connection with the 2004 case. Additionally, two special circumstance allegations are attached to the murder and rape charge. Normally a special circumstance allegation carries with it the opportunity for the prosecution to seek the death penalty; however, because of an extradition agreement with Mexico, prosecutors can not pursue the death penalty in this case, Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey said outside the courtroom. Fernandez faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted, Harvey said. A preliminary hearing was set for March 16.