Image: James Hughes
Miami Dade Police Department via AP
James “Jimmy” Hughes, 52, is accused of conspiring with three other men to stop an official from exposing alleged illegal activities of the founder of a tribe’s casino.
updated 12/16/2009 4:51:38 AM ET 2009-12-16T09:51:38

A ministry director has pleaded not guilty to a 1981 triple murder in the Southern California desert.

An attorney entered the plea Tuesday for James "Jimmy" Hughes in Riverside Superior Court.

Hughes faces charges of murder and conspiracy in the deaths of Ralph Boger, Patricia Castro and Alfred Alvarez, who were found dead in a home in rural Rancho Mirage, about 130 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Alvarez was vice chairman of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Tribal Council.

Prosecutors say Hughes conspired with three other men to stop Alvarez from exposing alleged illegal activities of the founder of the tribe's casino.

The bizarre case is called the "Octopus Murders" because of the tribe's complex connections to government agencies and the long list of people rumored to be involved.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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