PHOENIX (AP) _ A judge entered innocent pleas today for three men charged with killing nine people at a Buddhist temple.

The three, all from Tucson, are charged with nine counts of murder in the Aug. 10 slayings of six monks and three others at Wat Promkunaram, a temple outside Phoenix which served Southeast Asians, principally Thai immigrants.

Investigators allege the victims were killed by a group of crack-smoking robbers frustrated at failing to find gold they believed was at the temple.

Defendants Michael McGraw, Mark Nunez and Leo Valdez Bruce each are charged with nine counts of murder, plus robbery, burglary and conspiracy. The defendants were present but spoke only to confirm their names and ages.

The pleas were entered on their behalf at an arraignment before Superior Court Judge Ronald Reinstein. The judge set an Oct. 21 pretrial hearing and scheduled trial for the three for Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, a preliminary hearing continues this afternoon in Superior Court in Phoenix for a fourth defendant, Dante Parker. The hearing is to determine if the evidence against Parker, also a Tucson resident, is sufficient to send him to trial.

Parker was charged directly by prosecutors and so requires a preliminary hearing. The others were indicted by a grand jury and go to trial without a preliminary hearing.