SAN DIEGO (CN) – A man who attacked homeless San Diego residents in 2016, many while they slept, pleaded guilty Monday to 15 felonies including four counts of murder.
Jon David Guerrero responded “guilty” when asked by San Diego Superior Court Judge Kenneth So, “What is your plea, guilty or not guilty?”
The guilty plea includes four counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder, five counts of assault and 2 counts of arson.
Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey told reporters following the hearing the parties had already stipulated to a sentence which includes four consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 143 years to life.
Harvey said Guerrero would continue to receive mental health treatment while serving his life term in prison.
Police arrested Guerrero July 15, 2016, after the homeless community had been on edge following a series of attacks by a man on a bicycle who stabbed them or struck them with railroad spikes and set or attempted to set their bodies on fire.
The issue of whether Guerrero was competent to stand trial and aid in his own defense had plagued the 3 ½-year case, with him being shuffled between jail and Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County multiple times after he pleaded not guilty in April 2017.
This past spring, a competency trial was held where a brain imaging specialist said Guerrero had abnormalities that would hinder his ability to participate in a trial. But after hearing from other witnesses, Judge So determined Guerrero was competent to stand trial.
Harvey said Monday a comment Guerrero made to Stephen Ketner, the first person he attacked in February 2016, gave insight into his potential motive: Guerrero told Ketner he attacked him “because you’re a bum,” according to Harvey.
Harvey said the San Diego Police Department put in “so many hours” helping the victims and that Guerrero’s guilty plea is “a huge relief to get finality.”
“This is a great thing for the victims and their families,” she added.
One of the surviving victims, Michael Papadelis, was at the hearing Monday and spoke with Guerrero’s parents, who have attended court hearings in his case since he was arrested.
Papadelis said he was attacked around 4:30 a.m. on July 15, 2016 – the day Guerrero was arrested – while sleeping at a downtown underpass. He was hit and stabbed in the face and said he blacked out before calling for help.
The attack left Papadelis blind in his right eye and he also suffered facial fractures and injuries. Papadelis said the worst part of his recovery was that his eyes were swollen shut for three weeks following the attack.
But Papadelis said he had “nothing against” Guerrero even though he’s lost 70% of his eyesight.
“There’s a lot of mental illness on the street. Jon couldn’t get the help he needed. There’s finally closure for the families. I’m happy to be alive,” Papadelis said, noting he was approved for disability benefits last year.
Deputy Public Defenders Dan Tandon and Whitney Antrim represent Guerrero.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 1.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.