LOS ANGELES (CBS) —  A 41-year-old man accused of murdering his live-in girlfriend and her 11-year-old son pleaded not guilty Thursday.

Ishmael Townsend is charged with murder in the deaths of Penelipha Carter, 39, and her son, Crestsalin Carter, whose decomposed bodies were discovered May 21 at an apartment in the 900 block of West 81st Street between Vermont Avenue and Hoover Street.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty.

Neighbors said they smelled a foul odor emanating from the rear apartment, and told police the mother and son had not been seen for about a week, according to police.

Their vehicle, a 2004 Pontiac Montana van, was missing. It later was found in the area.

Townsend was spotted May 22 near 31st Street and Cimarron Avenue, near a home where he had been staying. He was arrested later that day on suspicion of murder, police said.

Police said it appeared that Carter and her son died as the result of a physical assault.

Townsend remained jailed without bail. He is due back at the downtown courthouse Aug. 23.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)



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