The man accused in a 3-year-old homicide pleaded not guilty in Stanislaus Superior Court on Thursday.
James Foster, 50, was arrested in San Jose this week and booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on Wednesday on suspicion of killing 30-year-old Brian Morris in June 2010.
Morris was found shot to death along Costner Road, a rural area north of Modesto.
Foster's nephew Gregory Fisher has spent the past 13 months behind bars, charged with Morris' murder. But in the past two weeks, he was released from jail, his charges amended to accessory for murder, and a warrant was issued for his uncle's arrest.
Foster is charged with first-degree murder with enhancements alleging premeditation and using a firearm, which could lengthen his sentence if convicted. Foster has prior convictions for assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury.
Detective Frank Soria said there was evidence and other information collected after further investigation that indicated Fisher was not the killer.
The night Morris was killed, he and Foster were captured on surveillance footage at the Stop N Save at Standiford Avenue and Carver Road. Morris put gas in a Ford Torres that he'd argued with Foster about the week before his death, Soria said. The car was the same make and model as a car that had been stolen from one of Morris' friends.
Detectives identified and located Foster in late 2011 but did not arrest him.
Morris' parents and brother were in court for Foster's arraignment hearing Thursday afternoon. His parents, Brad and Myra Morris, said after court they were anxious to see Foster. "It's been a high since we found out (he was arrested)," Myra Morris said.
While the case has had ups and downs, Brad and Myra Morris said they were not discouraged by Fisher's release because they knew detectives had Foster on their radar the entire time.
Foster remains incarcerated with no bail. The issue of bail is expected to be discussed at his next hearing Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. in Department 3. Also at that hearing, Foster is expected to be assigned an attorney.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter @ModestoBeeCrime