BY KERI BLAKINGER:
The man accused of brutally murdering three San Diego homeless men will be given a mental competency evaluation, a judge ordered Tuesday.
Jon Guerrero was collared July 15 after he allegedly attacked five homeless men, setting two on fire and using a railroad spike to murder three of them during a series of bloody attacks that set the sunny southern California city on edge. The 39-year-old has a long criminal record and history of mental health problems.
A defense attorney asked the court this week to put the case on hold so his client could submit to a mental exam.
“My client is severely mentally ill,” Deputy Public Defender Dan Tandon said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“During this series of crimes, the defendant demonstrated extreme planning and sophistication,” said Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey said.
“He selected homeless victims, and, in each of the cases, the victims were sleeping.”
Guerrero’s first victim, 53-year-old Angelo DeNardo, was found on July 3 under a bridge, a railroad spike driven through his head and chest.
His body had been set on fire.
The following day, 61-year-old Manuel Mason was found blinded and injured near Valley View Casino Center, a railroad spike bashed into his sinus cavity.
That same day, police found the dead body of 41-year-old Shawn Longley near some tennis courts at Robb Athletic Field.
Derek Vahidy, 23, was assaulted and lit on fire on July 6 and later died at the hospital.
The final victim was found bloody and screaming on July 15, just before Guerrero’s arrest.
“These evil acts of violence are some of the worst I have seen in my 34 years of law enforcement,” Chief Shelley Zimmerman said at the time.
When police caught up with Guerrero, they found a backpack loaded with a mallet and railroad spikes. In his apartment were railroad ties, more spikes and a bucket of rocks.
Guerrero behaved oddly throughout his Tuesday court appearance, leaning bizarrely to the side and tugging on his ear.
Court records show he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and in 2009 was found mentally not competent after he pleaded guilty to robbery when he knocked down a homeless woman and stole her bike. Several mental health cases were filed between 2008 and 2011.
Now, he is facing murder, attempted murder and arson charges.
If he’s convicted, Guerrero could face life in prison.