Multiple life terms for San Diego man who killed four in 2016
A mentally ill San Diego man who admitted to deadly attacks primarily on homeless men — killing three of them by hammering their bodies with railroad spikes — was sentenced Tuesday to multiple terms of life in prison without parole.
Jon David Guerrero, 43, received four life sentences without parole, plus an additional 143 years to life in prison, for the attacks.
Guerrero’s sentencing in San Diego Superior Court came nearly a year after he pleaded guilty to murdering four people and assaulting nine others in the bizarre and brutal crimes in 2016.
Among the charges he admitted to four counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson — two of the slaying victims were set on fire.
“In the summer of 2016, there was a period of about 18 days that the defendant really terrorized the community,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Makenzie Harvey said during Guerrero’s sentencing hearing at the San Diego Central Courthouse.
All but one of the attacks occurred between late June and mid-July 2016. Harvey said the assailant targeted “the most vulnerable in our community.” The attacks, she said, “can only be described as brutal, gruesome, horrific.”
Three of the slaying victims were homeless men who were impaled with spikes as they slept. The fourth was 83-year-old Molly Simons, who was walking to a North Park bus stop, on her way to volunteer at the YMCA, when she was struck in the head from behind. Simons suffered a skull fracture and a brain bleed and died a few weeks later.
When Guerrero was arrested, his clothes were spattered with blood. In his backpack, police found a small sledgehammer and railroad spikes.
Three of those attacked with railroad spikes survived, but all were disfigured and have lasting mental and physical trauma, Harvey said.
The only hint at a motive came from his first victim, who was jolted from sleep on a loading dock in East Village when he was stabbed in the face. The victim asked the stranger why he was attacking.
“Because you’re a bum,” Guerrero replied.
The mother of victim Shawn Longley, who was fatally impaled in an Ocean Beach park, told Guerrero during the hearing that he “took away a piece of my heart that I’ll never, ever get back, and I will never, ever forgive you for that. Never.”
Linda Gramlick said her son was “murdered by a monster for no reason.”
“Jon Guerrero must die for that,” she said. “One way or another, he must die.”
Prosecutors in Guerrero’s case filed special-circumstance allegations — such as multiple killings — that could have meant the possibility of the death penalty. However, Guerrero’s guilty plea came before they announced whether they would seek his execution. His plea called for multiple life terms without parole.
Guerrero has schizophrenia and has spent time in jail or institutions, although he was living in a low-rent apartment in East Village at the time of the attacks. Questions about his mental competency surrounded the murder case, and he was sent to Patton State Hospital for evaluation and treatment.
“Mr. Guerrero is severely mentally ill,” Deputy Public Defender Danesh Tandon told the judge during the sentencing hearing. “I don’t think anybody doubts that.”
The attorney said Guerrero’s mother repeatedly tried to get help for her son, who grew up in Coronado. Court records indicate that his illness grew serious when he was 22, about the same time his criminal history started.
“There was a voice screaming in the wind for years and years and years,” Tandon said of Guerrero’s mother. He said she asked for help from mental health professionals, courts, police, “anybody who would listen.”
The attacks rattled the homeless community.
The first came in February 2016, when a man was stabbed on the loading dock. He survived. The next four months were quiet. In late June, two men were attacked; two days later, a woman. Those three also survived.
The attacks turned deadly four days later — July 3 — near Interstate 5 and Moreno Boulevard. Anthony DeNardo, 53, was asleep when he was impaled with a railroad spike and set on fire. The following day, Longley, 41, was fatally impaled.
Two days later, on July 6, Dionicio Vahidy was sleeping under a towel in downtown San Diego when a man lit the towel on fire. The badly burned 23-year-old died four days later.
Simons was attacked July 13 in North Park.
The ordeal ended July 15 after two more people were attacked but survived. One was asleep on a sidewalk when Guerrero drove a spike into his face. The 58-year-old was left blind in his right eye, and his left eye was damaged.
Later that day, police stopped Guerrero as he rode a bicycle through the Bankers Hill area and arrested him.
Figueroa writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune. City News Service contributed to this report.
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