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CROWN POINT — A judge affirmed not guilty pleas Monday for a Gary man charged with murder in the high-profile disappearance of a 36-year-old mother of six children.

Drew "Tiny" Carter III, 41, had a brief exchange before his case was called with the family of the woman he's accused of fatally shooting Feb. 25.

A court security officer quickly warned members of 36-year-old Jessica Flores' family and Carter they were not permitted to talk to each other.

After that, Carter — who wore a gray jail uniform — sat in a chair, looking ahead as he waited for his hearing to begin.

Flores' sister, Mady Perez, said after the hearing she is still holding out hope her sister, whose body has not been found, is alive.

"He said to us, 'I didn't do it,'" Perez said.

Family members responded by asking Carter where Flores is, she said.

"I'm glad that he's not getting a bond," Perez said.

Charges unsealed last week against Carter include murder, kidnapping and two counts of criminal confinement.

Perez and other members of Flores' family wiped away tears as Murray went over future court dates and other procedural matters with Carter's attorney, Adam Tavitas, and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Eric Randall. Carter acknowledged members of his own family before leaving the courtroom.

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A search Sunday in Gary and several previous searches have turned up no evidence of Flores.

A witness told police Carter and Flores were arguing Feb. 25 as he drove them around Gary. Carter asked if he could have sex with the witness, Flores said no, and Carter turned and fired one shot at Flores, who immediately slumped over in the backseat, court records say. 

The female witness told police Carter drove her back to a home near 10th Avenue and Clark Road and took her inside, leaving Flores' body in the car. The witness escaped after Carter fell asleep, records say.

Police later found the car, which belonged to Flores' boyfriend, abandoned and burned on Chicago's South Side. A blood pattern in the back seat suggested Flores suffered an arterial wound that would have almost certainly been fatal without immediate medical attention, court records say.

A potential witness in the case, George Heath, 55, was found dead from a gunshot to the back of his head Monday at his home in the 3100 block of West 22nd Avenue, court records allege.

The witness told police she and Flores had been at Heath's home with Carter before Flores was shot, records say. Heath’s homicide remained under investigation Monday.

Anyone with information about the location of Flores' body or Heath’s homicide is asked to call Detective Ed Gonzalez of the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3855. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.

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