Suspect in beating death of elderly man faces judge

Vista courtroom

SAN DIEGO – A 21-year-old man suspected of beating to death an 84-year-old man outside a Fallbrook church plead not guilty Friday to charges of murder and assault.

Keith Vasquez was ordered held on $1 million bail, according to Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort.

San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Vasquez of Fallbrook shortly after the attack Wednesday.

Before the deadly attack, Vasquez is suspected of picking a fight with two men painting the building.

“They were asking what he was doing here. Then, he became violent, hitting them. They decided the best thing was to get inside and call the police,” said Reverend Guy Williams of the Hilltop Center For Spiritual Living.

Witnesses said the suspect then came across his elderly victim who was preparing for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting downstairs. The suspect was seen running away.

Deputies arrived and found the victim bleeding on the ground. He later died at the hospital.

“Once the deputies rendered aid to the victim who passed away – they began searching the area and about 30 minutes later they found a suspect matching that description walking on a nearby street. They took him into custody at that time,” said Lt. Kenneth Nelson.

No motive for the attack is known. Investigators do not believe the victim, known by people who attend the church as Norm, knew his attacker.

“There’s no way he instigated any of this. He was a quiet, gentle soul,” said a friend of the victim.

Vasquez was booked into the Vista Detention Facility for murder.

The readiness conference was scheduled for October 4. The preliminary hearing was scheduled for October 6.