Published: Wed, May 10, 2017
Local | By Dorothy Bennett

Phoenix police announce arrest in serial street shootings


Police credited tips for helping breaking the case but provided scant details about the suspect's motivation.

Numerous shootings took place in southwest Phoenix, with the victims targeted as they stood outside homes or walked about the area's predominantly Latino, working-class neighborhoods.

A "wide host of evidence", now ties Saucedo to the killing spree, including ballistics, surveillance, and witnesses, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Howard said. In addition to Romero's murder, he was charged with the seven homicides that made up the original pattern, and a ninth slaying that had not previously been linked to the serial murders - the fatal shooting of Jesse Olivas, 22, on January 1, 2016.

April 1, 2016: A 21-year-old man, Diego Verdugo-Sanchez, was shot and killed in front of a home around 9 p.m. His partner, Marina Smith, was reportedly 7 months pregnant at the time.

The other victims, including a 12-year-old girl and a 55-year-old woman, seem to have been targeted at random.

- Horacio De Jesus Pena, 32, was killed on June 3 after returning home from work at a group home. Maleah and Angela died at the scene.

The next shooting didn't happen until April 1, 2016, when Verdugo-Sanchez was fatally shot.

Shots were fired into a vehicle on July 11, 2016; a man and a 4-year-old boy inside escaped unhurt.

A 23-year-old Phoenix man arrested in a series of shootings in which nine people were killed is proclaiming his innocence.

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Police gave few details on how they linked the man to the killings, which stopped last July amid extensive media coverage.

On Monday, he was charged with another eight counts of homicide, three counts of attempted homicide, six counts of drive-by shooting, five counts of aggravated assault and one count each of endangerment, discharging a firearm at a structure, discharging a firearm at a non-residential structure and criminal damage.

The firearm was returned to the pawn shop after testing because police identified who they believed was the prime suspect in the highway shootings, though the suspect was later released.

Although the shooter has struck as far east as 32nd Street, the most obvious connection between the killings is geography. Two days later, county prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder in the killing of Romero, who was gunned down in the driveway of his East Montebello Avenue home on August 16, 2015.

Gisela Castro, the mother of shooting victim Manuel Castro-Garcia, said news of the arrest felt like she was reliving the day she was told her son had been killed.

" 'I had a gut feeling it was him, ' she told paper on Monday".

Sylvia Ellis, who lost her daughter and granddaughter, said she is in shock at the arrest.

"When they showed me the picture, I did get a little chills", he said.

They wouldn't say if multiple people will collect the reward.

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