Mental Exam Ordered for Suspected Homeless Killer

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — A San Diego judge suspended criminal proceedings Tuesday against the man suspected of attacking and killing sleeping homeless men with railroad spikes and setting them on fire.
     San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederick Maguire delayed proceedings against Jon David Guerrero, 39, to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial in the murders of three homeless men and the attempted murder of two others.
     Guerrero’s attorney, public defender Dan Tandon, asked Maguire to suspend proceedings because he said Guerrero suffers from severe mental illness and needs to be evaluated. A competency exam has been set for Sept. 22.
     Guerrero faces charges including three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson. He is being held without bail, according to jail records.
     Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey told the judge that Guerrero “demonstrated extreme planning and sophistication” when he attacked homeless men around San Diego while they were sleeping alone. She said the victims were all found with puncture injuries from railroad spikes. The first victim, 53-year-old Angelo De Nardo, had railroad spikes driven completely through his head and chest before his body was set on fire near the train tracks in the Clairemont neighborhood.
     The second victim, Manuel Mason, 61, survived an early morning attack and has since been released from the hospital. Harvey said a railroad spike was driven completely through his nasal cavity and he is now blind. Other victims were also found dead or injured with railroad spikes left next to them, Harvey said.
     The murder spree began over the Fourth of July holiday weekend and put homeless San Diegans and advocates on alert. Authorities originally took another man into custody whom they believed to be the killer, but later released him before his first court appearance after “exculpatory evidence” led investigators back to the drawing board.
     Guerrero was arrested July 15 after Harbor Police officers responded to calls of a man who was attacked near downtown.
     Harvey said at the time of his arrest Guerrero had a backpack and hat that matched those captured by convenience store surveillance camera footage shortly before De Nardo’s body was found on fire. The backpack contained identification for some of the victims, a metal-headed mallet and three railroad spikes, Harvey said.
     Additional evidence, including more railroad spikes and rocks, was found at Guerrero’s apartment, Harvey added.
     At one point during the hearing, Guerrero yelled “six years,” which both Tandon and Harvey declined to comment on. Maguire indicated at the hearing Guerrero had appeared before his bench before “maybe four or five or six years ago” in an unrelated case and he found him incompetent. Guerrero was apparently sent to a mental health hospital for treatment, but it was not clear how long he spent there.
     Harvey disputed Tandon’s assertion that Guerrero has a mental illness, pointing out when Guerrero was brought in for questioning he had no problem answering detectives’ questions.
     “He exhibited behavior not consistent with someone with a disorganized mind,” Harvey told Maguire.
     Harvey also pointed out that only when Guerrero was asked the “hard questions” by detectives did he struggle to answer, but once the “hard questions” stopped he had “no problem” engaging in articulate conversation — suggesting that he was playing up his mental illness.
     Guerrero’s next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 7.

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