Alleged serial killer faces more charges in Valley shootings

Alleged serial killer faces more charges in connection with August shootings in San Fernando Valley

A Sylmar man described by authorities as a serial killer was charged Thursday with three murders in connection with a five-day shooting rampage across the San Fernando Valley this past summer.

The new charges filed Thursday against Alexander Hernandez, 34, stemmed from three separate shootings on Aug. 24 that left two women and a man dead. After those shootings, investigators linked Hernandez to a series of other shotgun attacks in the days before.

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this post misspelled Gildardo Morales' first name as Gilardo.

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The new murder charges accuse Hernandez in the killings of Gloria Tovar, a 59-year-old woman gunned down in Pacoima as she was waiting to pick up a friend for church; Michael Planells, a 29-year-old man killed while looking for cans at the Sylmar Recreation Center; and Mariana Franco, a 23-year-old woman fatally shot while driving to morning Mass with her family.

Hernandez was also charged with the attempted murders of Franco's parents, who were injured in that shooting, and two siblings. The new charges also include attempted murder in an Aug. 20 shooting of a woman in Atwater Village.

Investigators with the Los Angeles police and sheriff's departments have identified Hernandez as their sole suspect in the string of attacks. Detectives said the shootings followed a similar, unusual pattern: a lone man firing a shotgun from a gold or tan-colored sport-utility vehicle.

"He would fixate on people and he would start following them, and then he'd shoot them," sheriff's Lt. John Corina said. "Someone would catch his eye."

Hernandez — whose criminal records includes convictions for drugs and weapons possession — was arrested hours after the three Aug. 24 shootings. He was charged later that month with capital murder, attempted murder and animal cruelty in connection with three of the earlier shootings.

Hernandez remains in custody without bail. His arraignment on the new charges is scheduled for Jan. 14. 

In all, Hernandez has been charged with 22 counts. Prosecutors have not yet said whether they will seek the death penalty.

The charges came from a series of shootings that began the morning of Aug. 20, when a 42-year-old woman was seriously wounded as she got off the 5 Freeway in Atwater Village. The next morning, Gildardo Morales, 48, was found shot to death in his truck at a Pacoima intersection, the engine still running.

On Aug. 22, a couple were driving in West Hollywood when they were followed by a tan or gold SUV. At one point, the SUV pulled alongside the couple and a gunman opened fire, authorities said. The couple were not hit, but their Toyota was damaged by three shotgun blasts, a sheriff's official said.

A day later, on Aug. 23, a gunman shot three dogs in Pacoima. The animals' owners told LAPD investigators that they recognized the shooter as a man whose tan SUV broke down in front of their house the week before.

The final attacks came the next morning, within about an hour.

Follow @katemather@LAcrimes and @MarisaGerber for more Los Angeles crime news.

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