Suspect in attacks on SD homeless has history of arrests and mental issues

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SAN DIEGO --San Diego police said the man arrested in connection with a string of attacks on homeless men has a history of arrests including attacking another homeless person and possible mental problems.

San Diego police arrested Jon David Guerrero, 39, on Friday. Guerrero faces three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson.

Public records show an extensive history of criminal cases in San Diego, dating from 1999 to 2009, and several mental health cases filed in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Investigators believe he might have also carried out attacks in which homeless people were hit on the head with hammers.

Police arrested Guerrero in 2007. He pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and grand theft. Then in 2009, he pleaded guilty to robbery for repeatedly knocking down a homeless woman and stealing her bicycle. Again placed on probation, he violated the conditions and was ruled nit mentally competent.

His mother, Kathleen Guerrero, wrote a number of letters to the court on her son's behalf, seeking psychiatric treatment for him in jail. She said in part, ”his inability to follow direction would most likely result in his wandering the streets, then offend again and return to jail. He is clearly unable to manage in the community.”

In more court documents experts stated, “Jon suffers from schizophernia and is considered disabled. When his medication wears off…he begins to hear ‘good’ and ‘bad’ voices...but with it he can lead a normal, productive and crime free life.”

In a recent letter to a judge, Guerrero wrote he’s been compliant with his medications but is also “very confused and scared.”

"We can all rest a little easier tonight knowing that this predator is off our streets," San Diego police Chief Shelly Zimmeman said on Froday. "These evil acts of violence committed by Guerrero are some of the worst I have seen in my 34 years In law enforcement. This killer has targeted some of our community's most vulnerable citizens while they were sleeping. I want everyone to know that I firmly believe that Guerrero is the suspect responsible for these vicious crimes."

Guerrero, a native of Coronado, currently lives in downtown San Diego, police Capt. David Nisleit said.

The string of brutal attacks, during which several of the victims were set on fire, put the city -- particularly those who live on its urban streets -- on edge after beginning over the Fourth of July weekend.

The most recent assault occurred early Friday morning near the intersection of 19th and C Streets in the East Village. The 55-year-old victim suffered "significant trauma'' to his upper body but was expected to survive, Nisleit told reporters.

Officers detained Guerrero in the vicinity of Laurel and Brant streets in Bankers Hill based on his appearance, which is notably similar to video images and a composite drawing of the suspect in the earlier attacks, Nisleit said.

Images of a man believed to be the killer were captured by surveillance cameras at a Bay Park convenience store early on the morning of July 3, shortly before the burning body of 53-year-old transient Angelo De Nardo was found in a nearby open area off Morena Boulevard.

The following day, 41-year-old Shawn Longley was found dead at a park on Bacon Street in Ocean Beach, and 61-year-old Manuel Mason was severely wounded near Valley View Casino Center in the Midway district, according to police.

On the morning of July 6, another homeless man, 23-year-old Dionicio Vahidy, was gravely wounded in downtown San Diego by an assailant who fled after leaving a towel burning on top of the victim. Vahidy died in a hospital four days later.

Authorities have not released the victims' causes of death or disclosed a suspected motive for the violence.

Last week, a South Bay homeless man was jailed on suspicion of committing the assaults, but he was released four days later, just before he was due to make his initial court appearance in the case. The suspect, Anthony Alexander Padgett, 36, was freed after detectives uncovered evidence that cast doubt on his guilt, Nisleit said.