Caleb McGillivary, 24, is accused of killing 73-year-old lawyer Joseph Galfy, whose body was found May 13 in his Clark, N.J., home.
McGillivary questioned Judge Brenda Coppola Cuba at times about his plea and bail. He stood, hands shackled, in a part of the courtroom enclosed by thick glass.
McGillivary appeared confused about the charges against him and the legal process. He asked the judge to "elaborate" on the charges, and asked if he would be able to "postpone the plea" if he were represented by a private lawyer.
Lorraine Stanley, the public defender representing McGillivary, told him she was pleading not guilty on his behalf to "get the ball rolling." The case will now go before a grand jury, which will decide if prosecutors have enough evidence to take the case to trial.
McGillivary said a private attorney is attempting to contact him but claims he was not allowed to use a phone in jail. The judge told McGillivary he would be allowed to make a phone call.
Stanley said friends have been working to get defence attorney Miles Feinstein involved in McGillivary's case. A woman who answered the phone at Feinstein's office said he was in court.
McGillivary was told at the end of the proceeding he is being held on $3 million bail.
"Ok, fine. Cool," he said.
Authorities say McGillivary and Galfy met in New York City. McGillivary stayed at Galfy's home. He was arrested in Philadelphia days later.
McGillivary took a star turn in February after intervening in an attack on a Fresno, Calif., utility worker. He described himself as "home free" instead of homeless and said he's from West Virginia.
"I don't have any family,'' he had said in the television interview in February. "As far as anybody I grew up with is concerned, I'm already dead.''
But according to McGillivary's father, Gil, he does have a family in Canada that is concerned about his well-being.
Caleb McGillivary was born and raised in Edmonton, Gil McGillivary, from Hawkesbury, Ont., said in an interview with The Associated Press last month.
He said he lost custody of his son shortly after he and Caleb's mother divorced when the boy was 8.
"Caleb, from my understanding, was kind of upset at me for abandoning him,'' Gil McGillivary said, adding that he couldn't get to a custody hearing because his car broke down.
McGillivary said Caleb was an outgoing child, but could be hard to handle. He said he once made Caleb return toys that he stole from a store. The boy loved camping, motorcycles and going to air shows, he said.
Gil McGillivary said his son had behaviour problems and ADHD that required medication, and called him a "street kid.''
He said he last saw his son in December 2010. Caleb came to Ontario to spend Christmas with his three stepsiblings, Gil McGillivary said.
Caleb's mother, who lives in Alberta, refused to comment.
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