WEST PALM BEACH (AP) - The man police call their only suspect in the deaths of two children found in a South Florida canal pleaded not guilty Monday to unrelated gun charges.
Clem Beauchamp, 34, entered his plea to the three federal firearms counts after a public defender was appointed to represent him. Prosecutors have used the gun charges to keep him behind bars while police try to wrap up a case against him.
In two prior court appearances, Beauchamp was denied a public defender because he owns a home a judge said provided sufficient collateral to hire his own attorney. Appearing before a new judge Monday, the court agreed to declare Beauchamp partially indigent and assign him a public defender. He must pay $10,000 toward his defense.
"We obviously have a problem here getting you an attorney," U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins said before appointing the public defender.
The bodies of the two children - 10-year-old Jermaine McNeil and his 6-year-old sister Ju'tyra Allen- were found in a Delray Beach canal last month. The girl's body was stuffed into a duffel bag, the boy's in a suitcase.
A Delray Beach Police spokeswoman said Monday that the investigation was ongoing and that she didn't know when charges might be filed against Beauchamp, whom investigators have called their only suspect.
Authorities also believe Beauchamp was involved in the death of the children's mother, 25-year-old Felicia Brown, whose body was found in a landfill last August. Brown is Beauchamp's ex-girlfriend.
The hearing Monday was over within minutes. Outside the court, Beauchamp's sister Margo Beauchamp said she was happy her brother finally has an attorney and entered his plea.
"I think it was a good plea and I hope he'll be home soon," she said.