PHOENIX (AP) — Police investigating a serial killer stalking two predominantly Latino neighborhoods in Phoenix found 10 shell casings outside a home where one of seven of those killed suffered at least five gunshots, according to a recently released police report.
Horacio de Jesus Pena, 32, had just returned home June 3 at night from his job at an assisted living facility and had his keys in hand when the attacker known as the "Serial Street Shooter" opened fire, said the report released on Monday after journalists requested that reports on the killings to be made public.
Police found no witnesses who saw the shooting, but one reported seeing a white sedan with shiny wheels or wheel rims parked near Pena's house before the shooting.
After hearing the shots, the woman told relatives to retreat to the back of her house. When she looked out the front window again, the white car was gone, according to the police report.
Police blame the suspect described as a lanky Hispanic man in his 20s for killing seven people and wounding two others in attacks from mid-March until mid-July, with six of the seven killings happening in the poor neighborhood of Maryvale. The killer always gets out of a car and shoots people at close range from the street or fires from within his car.
His victims include a 21-year-old man whose girlfriend was pregnant with their son and a 12-year-girl who was shot to death along with her mother and a friend of the woman.
Authorities do not believe the attacks are racially motivated but have not identified a motive and have said it's possible the killer has an accomplice.
Police have repeatedly declined to say they linked the various cases. The cars used by the killer include a late-1990s brown Nissan with a spoiler, a late-1990s black BMW, and a white Cadillac or Lincoln.
Detectives scouring the crime scene where Pena was discovered the 10 shell casings and also found three projectiles. He was hit by bullets and bullet fragments at least five times — in the shoulder, abdomen, back, head and right eye.
Pena's sister told detectives said she was mystified why her brother might have been targeted because she said he did not owe anyone money, did not do drugs and was not involved with gangs.
In another serial killer report released Monday, a witness told authorities he saw muzzle flashes for seven or eight gunshots when the killer shot Manuel Castro Garcia dead on June 10 in Maryvale.
Garcia died as he sat in his sports utility vehicle outside his girlfriend's house, waiting for her so they could go out to dinner.
It was unclear what else the witness sitting on front porch nearby may have seen because the police report was heavily redacted.
Another witness told police of seeing someone fire shots at Garcia's SUV but the description given of the suspect was also redacted.
Garcia was shot as his girlfriend was turning off the lights and locking it to go outside and meet up with her boyfriend. He died a short time later at a hospital.
The last Phoenix serial killing case was in 2005-2006 when six people were killed and 19 wounded in a series of seemingly random shootings. Two men were convicted.
This version corrects that the neighborhoods stalked by the serial killer are predominantly Latino, not Latin.
Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jacques-billeaud