A British Columbia man accused of slashing his stepdaughter's throat pleaded not guilty in a Washington state courtroom yesterday to first-degree murder.

A court-appointed lawyer entered the plea on behalf of Peter Wilson, 29, in Mason County Superior Court.

Five-year-old Clare Shelswell was killed in late June while vacationing with her family in Hoodsport, near Seattle.

A prosecutor filed the murder charge on Friday, along with a notice of intent to seek an exceptional sentence, said Ronald Sergi, Wilson's court-appointed lawyer.

Sergi said a straightforward first-degree murder conviction for someone without a criminal history would typically result in a sentence of 20 to 25 years in the state. The notice of intent means a judge could impose an extended sentence of up to life in prison.

“I don't expect the prosecutor to seek a true life sentence,” Sergi said.

He said in filing the notice, the prosecutor is alleging deliberate cruelty and violation of a position of trust.

Wilson's next court appearance is Aug. 9.