Julian Avenue where Sprague's body was found Sunday morning.

A 42-year-old homeless man found with an ATM card belonging to a homicide victim pleaded not guilty today to possession of stolen property, and the judge set bail at $55,000.

The fact that Roland Pouncy was arrested hours after 47-year-old Richard Sprague was found dead on Julian Avenue between 15th and 16th streets is “very, very troubling,” said Judge Gerardo Sandoval, who presided over the arraignment.

So far, however, police have not connected Pouncy to the murder.

Pouncy walked into court today with a smile on his face and nodded as he stood throughout the proceedings.

According to neighbors, Sprague screamed for help at around 2 a.m., but no one responded to his cries. It wasn’t until 7:42 a.m. that someone called 911. When officers arrived at the scene soon after, they found Sprague unconscious.

He had been lying on the sidewalk for more than five hours on a block filled with apartment buildings. Some residents had walked by the body, but said it was not unusual to see men sleeping off a night of too much drinking.

Police have not given the cause of death, but it is considered a homicide.

“The investigation on the homicide continues,” SFPD spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said earlier today.

Pouncy was arrested Sunday at about 1:20 p.m. in the area of 15th and Mission streets, according to today’s arraignment proceedings.

District Attorney’s office spokesman Omid Talai said earlier that officers asked Pouncy for his identification and then searched him. It was then that they found the Wells Fargo ATM card belonging to Sprague.

Pouncy has two prior convictions, one in 2000 for possession of cocaine for sale, and most recently in 2006, for possession of a controlled substance, Talai said.

An autopsy has been conducted, Esparza said, but the cause of death has not yet been released. Toxicology reports can take months, he said.

Sprague’s death is the Mission District’s first homicide for the year. Pouncy’s preliminary hearing was set for March 7.

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Hélène Goupil

Hélène Goupil is a former editor at Mission Local who now works independently as a videographer and editor. She's the co-author of "San Francisco: The Unknown City" (Arsenal Pulp Press).

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