Suspected serial killer who allegedly terrorized town charged with murdering 9
An alleged serial killer who was initially arrested last month for murder has now been linked to eight other murders that rattled an Arizona community last year.
Aaron Saucedo, 23, had already been charged with murder for allegedly shooting 61-year-old Raul Romero in August 2015 - to which he pleaded not guilty. Romero reportedly had a relationship with Saucedo's mom.
After an investigation, however, police said they linked Saucedo, dubbed the "serial street shooter," to the random murders of eight others between August 2015 and July 2016.
Police said tips from the community led police to the suspect.
The majority of Saucedo's alleged attacks took place last year when seven were shot dead and two others were wounded over a four-month period — March to July — in a predominately Latino neighborhood in the Phoenix area.
"This case plagued our community for more than a year... and left behind a trail of victims that included mothers, sons, brothers, sisters and families still mourning the loss of their loved ones," Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said in a press conference Monday.
- Jessie Olivas, 22, was shot and killed on Jan 1, 2016 while standing in front of his home in a drive-by shooting.
- Diego Verdugo-Sanchez was shot dead on April 1, 2016 in front of his home. His partner, Marina Smith, was reportedly 7 months pregnant at the time.
- Krystal Annette White, 55, was shot to death on April 19.
- Horacio De Jesus Pena, 32, was killed on June 3 after returning home from work at a group home.
- Manuel Castro Garcia, 18, was killed outside his home on June 10.
- Maleah Ellis, 12, Stefanie Ellis, 33, and Angela Linner were shot on June 12 while sitting in a parked car. Maleah and Linner died at the scene. Stefanie Ellis died three weeks later in the hospital.
Saucedo is also implicated in the non-fatal shooting of two teenage boys on March 17, 2016. Saucedo struck again the following day, shooting a 21-year-old man who also lived, according to reports.
Saucedo also allegedly shot at a 21-year-old man and his nephew while they were sitting in their car on July 11, 2016, but neither was injured.
Authorities said they had initially focused on only seven of the fatal shootings, but police said Monday that they had tied Saucedo to all nine killings, including Romero's. They said there is currently no known motive for the shootings.
Saucedo was booked on 26 felony counts, including homicide and assault, CBS reported.
Police released sketches of a suspect in July of last year and a description of a vehicle, a black BMW 5 series, late 1990s to early 2000s. According to police, Saucedo told authorities he then "changed his appearance and stopped driving his BMW."
The shootings also stopped.
"It's been said that a serial killer is like a chameleon, and that's what made this case so frustrating," U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said in a press conference.
Police said numerous pieces of evidence including surveillance, ballistics and witnesses linked Saucedo to the crimes.
The mother of Jesse Olivas, Lydia Lopez, said she had a feeling her son's death was linked to the "serial street shooter."
"I had a gut feeling it was him," she told the Republic.
Sylvia Ellis, who lost her daughter and granddaughter, said she is in shock at the arrest.
"[Police] said they couldn't give me a lot of details, as it's still an active case," Ellis said. "But they wanted me to find out from them and not the news. I know that when the right time comes for them to share more details, they will."
Police said the investigation is still ongoing.
"Our hearts go out to the surviving families. Today we are closer to providing them the justice they deserve," Williams said.