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Man charged with murder in alleged bullying incident pleads not guilty

A 22-year-old man died in January after his sister said an older man picked on him due to his appearance and then shot him in the chest.

BOISE, Idaho — A 22-year-old was shot and later died in January after his sister said he was being bullied due to his appearance by an older man, who pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday afternoon.

Jed Earls, 31, will face a jury trial in December for the second-degree murder of James "Matt" Cuellar.

A status conference is set for Nov. 15 in the matter.

It was determined a bullet had severed Cuellar's spine, leaving him in critical condition before he died on Jan. 21 with his sister at his bedside.

Police say the shooting happened in the early hours of Jan. 15, at a home on Owyhee Street in Boise’s Vista neighborhood. Cuellar's sister, Maribel Garcia, said her brother had been invited there by a friend for a get-together.

After he arrived, she said, an older man began picking on him and making fun of his appearance.

RELATED: 'This is the result of bullying, plain and simple:' 22-year-old shot at Boise home dies

"My brother was born with some birth defects that caused him to look physically different," Garcia told KTVB in January. "My brother was sticking up for himself, and basically told that guy like 'hey you don't know me, why would you ask me those kinds of things, or even think that was OK to say to somebody?'"

Garcia said the argument escalated and Earls pulled out a gun and shot her brother in the chest.

"Life can change in the blink of an eye," Garcia said. "This is the result of bullying, plain and simple. Do better. Be better."

Earls was arrested at the scene and then booked into the Ada County Jail on aggravated battery charges. When Cuellar died at the hospital, the charges were upgraded to second-degree murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

If Earls is found guilty, he faces up to life in prison.

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