A 20-year-old Santa Maria man has been arrested on suspicion of an apparently random ax attack that decapitated a man out for his morning walk.

"We're not sure what motivated this young man," said Santa Maria police Lt. Dan Ast, who added that the ax had been stolen during a recent home burglary.

Nicholas Bendle was being held in Santa Barbara County Jail on Monday as police investigated the death of 69-year-old Frederick Holgate.

The victim, who walked with a cane, was "attacked without warning" early Saturday and did not know his assailant, the police spokesman said. The ax was found several feet from his body.

Bendle was arrested at his home after his mother called police to say he had just returned, covered in blood, after she had reported him missing.

-- Steve Chawkins

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