LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) – A man who was deported six times and is now suspected in a string of at least seven attacks on mostly homeless people in Santa Monica and downtown Los Angeles — three of which were fatal — was charged Wednesday with murder, attempted murder, and robbery, authorities said.
Ramon Escobar, 47, was arrested Monday in Santa Monica following the early morning assault of a man in the 1500 block of Seventh Street. That man remains in a coma, police said. He is charged with three counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of second-degree robbery.
The murder charges against Escobar include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during a robbery. The allegations open Escobar to a possible death sentence, but prosecutors will decide later whether to seek capital punishment.
Escobar did not enter a plea, and his arraignment was postponed until Nov. 8.
Escobar also remains a person of interest in the disappearance of his aunt and uncle in Houston, siblings Roy and Dina Escobar.
He remains jailed without bail.
According to police, Escobar has been linked to a total of seven attacks:
— A Sept. 8 assault of a person who was sleeping on the beach in Santa Monica, with the victim treated and released from a hospital.
— A Sept. 10 attack of a man also sleeping on the Santa Monica beach in the same area, with the victim still in a coma.
— The Sept. 16 attacks of three homeless people in downtown Los Angeles, with two of those victims — Kelvin Williams, 59, and Brandon Ridout, 24, both of Los Angeles — later dying and the other remaining hospitalized in critical condition and on life-support.
— A 7 a.m. Monday attack at Seventh Street and Colorado in Santa Monica, with that man remaining in a coma.
Hayes said Escobar was homeless himself, having recently arrived in the area from Texas in a 2004 black Honda CRV. He said Escobar arrived in the Southland on Sept. 5, three days before the attacks began.
Police said detectives searched Escobar’s SUV Tuesday and seized a wooden baseball bat believed to have been used in the Sept. 16 attacks in downtown L.A.
Santa Monica police investigating Monday’s attack found a pair of bolt cutters, which is believed to be the weapon used in that assault.
Escobar is an El Salvador native who was deported to that country six times between 1997 and 2011, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Back in February of 1988, he was also ordered to be deported by a federal immigration judge, according to ICE. He has six felony convictions for burglary and illegal reentry, ICE said in a statement Tuesday.
In 1995, Escobar was sentenced in Harris County, Texas, to five years in prison on charges of auto burglary. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, he was paroled in 1997 with an ICE detainer and then immediately deported, the first of six such deportations.
In November 2017, he was convicted of misdemeanor assault in Harris County. In February of this year he was convicted of criminal trespassing, also in Harris County, per court records.
“After illegally re-entering the U.S. following his most recent removal, Escobar filed an appeal of his immigration case with the Board of Immigration Appeals in June 2016, which the courts granted in December 2016,” the statement said. “ICE released him from custody on an order of supervision in January 2017, pursuant to the court’s decision.”
At a news conference Tuesday, LAPD Capt. Billy Hayes said the attacks did not appear to be based on any hatred toward homeless people, even though all the victims, except Cruze, were apparently homeless.
“I think it was a crime of opportunity,” Hayes said. “It appears the motive in most of these cases was robbery.”
According to KHOU-TV, Escobar’s aunt and uncle have been missing since late August. Roy Escobar was last seen Aug. 26, and Dina Escobar was last seen Aug. 28. Dina’s burned out van was found in Galvaston, Texas, on Aug. 30. Escobar was questioned by police in Texas that same day. Shortly after, he fled the state.
Ligia Salamanca, Dina’s daughter, told KHOU Tuesday that her cousin Ramon was living with Roy at the time of their disappearance.
“He was there at the house both days when my mother and when my uncle went missing.” Salamanca told reporters Tuesday, following Ramon’s arrest.
She said she became suspicious when Ramon did not take part in any of the search efforts for their missing aunt and uncle.
“This is something you see on a TV and you never think its going to happen to you,” Salamanca said. “My mom, she was his biggest advocate, she loved him as she would a son.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)