A man who killed four people, including three homeless men, and attacked several others throughout San Diego during a spree of attacks in 2016 pleaded guilty Monday to 15 felonies, including four counts of murder, and will be sentenced to more than four consecutive life terms later this year.
Jon David Guerrero, 42, will be given four consecutive life without parole prison sentences, plus 143 years to life, when he’s sentenced May 1.
Guerrero, who was set to go to trial in June, pleaded to charges that include murder, attempted murder, assault and arson, plus a special circumstance allegation of committing multiple murders. He faced a potential death penalty had the case gone to trial, but the capital punishment decision was never made by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
The charges cover attacks on 13 separate victims between February and July of 2016, though most of the attacks occurred in the summer months.
The defendant set some of the victims on fire, while others were impaled with railroad spikes.
A definitive motive was never disclosed, though preliminary hearing testimony indicated Guerrero told the first victim in the series of attacks that he attacked him, “Because you’re a bum.”
Monday’s plea signals the end of court proceedings spanning more than three years, which included numerous mental competency hearings and multiple stays at Patton State Hospital. Guerrero is expected to remain at the hospital until sentencing, at which point he will serve his time in a state prison.
Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey said, “It’s a huge, huge relief to have finality to this, when it has seemed for the last three years with our stops and starts, that we might not get finality for a while. This is, I think, a very, very great thing for the victims and their families.”
One of the victims, Michael Papadelis, 58, who survived a July 15 encounter with Guerrero that left him blind in one eye, said he was happy to get closure.
Papadelis briefly spoke with Guerrero’s parents following Monday’s hearing and told them, “I don’t hate Jon,” and later told reporters, “This was just a person who had issues, mental issues, health issues.”
Prosecutors say Guerrero’s crime spree began on Feb. 8, 2016, when he stabbed a man who was sleeping on a sidewalk. That victim survived his injuries.
The rest of the crimes he pleaded to committing occurred in June and July of that year.
Those include the July 3 burning death of Angelo De Nardo, 53, whose body was found underneath an Interstate 5 off-ramp near the 2700 block of Morena Boulevard in Bay Park. Witnesses described seeing a man running across the freeway near Claremont Drive, carrying a gas can.
The following day, Shawn Mitchell Longley, 41, was found dead at a park on Bacon Street in Ocean Beach. Investigators believe Guerrero attacked Longley with a railroad spike while the victim was sleeping.
Another transient was severely injured near Valley View Casino Center in the Midway district on the same day Longley’s body was found. Personal items, including identification information from both De Nardo and Longley, were found inside Guerrero’s apartment, Harvey said.
On the morning of July 6, Dionicio Derek Vahidy, 23, was gravely injured in downtown San Diego by an assailant who fled after leaving a towel burning on top of him. Vahidy died in a hospital four days later.
Another attack happened shortly after 4:30 a.m. July 15, when two San Diego Harbor Police officers in a squad car in the 1800 block of C Street heard someone underneath Interstate 5 in the East Village yelling for help. The officers pulled over and found Papadelis suffering from “significant trauma” to his upper body.
The defendant was arrested the same day. Guerrero — who was on a bicycle — had a backpack containing a large mallet with apparent blood stains, along with three railroad spikes, Harvey alleged.
In the months following his arrest, investigators revealed that Guerrero also fatally injured 83-year-old Molly Simons on July 13, 2016, in a North Park alley. Police said Simons was not homeless and lived with her husband.
There are no indications that the suspect knew the victims, according to police.
Updated at 1:15 p.m. Jan. 27, 2020
–City News Service