SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – A Southern California man who police say went on a three-hour violent crime spree that left four people dead across two cities was charged Friday with murder, attempted murder, assault and other charges.
Authorities say Zachary Castaneda, 33, of Garden Grove viciously stabbed several people and robbed multiple businesses in Garden Grove and Santa Ana on Wednesday. His trail of destruction ended with his arrest outside a 7-Eleven story, according to police.
On Friday, the Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer charged Castaneda with four felony counts of murder, one felony count of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated mayhem and other serious felony charges. The charges make Castaneda ineligible for bail.
Castaneda refused to appear in court Friday but has pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to news reports.
Police say Castaneda has an extensive criminal history and was out on bail when he started his rampage earlier this week. He was arrested in July on eight felony counts of gang-related vandalism and charges from February for taking and receiving a stolen vehicle are also pending.
Spitzer said his office will determine if they will seek the death penalty in this week’s case.
Police said Castaneda broke into a neighbor’s apartment and stole several items on Wednesday, setting off the nearly three hours of random acts of violence. About 20 minutes later, police received another call of an armed robbery at a bakery.
According to investigators, Castaneda returned to his apartment complex where he was confronted by the neighbors he had robbed and Castaneda stabbed the two men multiple times. Police found one man’s body was found on a balcony and the second man was taken to a local hospital where he later died. Both men were in their 60s.
Police said Castaneda then robbed a check-cashing business and a nearby insurance company, stabbing a 54-year-old woman multiple times. That employee was taken to a nearby hospital for her injuries. He also took money that was thrown at him by another employee, according to police.
Shortly after Castaneda drove his silver Mercedes to a Chevron gas station and attacked a 44-year-old man with a large machete. He nearly severed the man’s nose during the attack, say police, and afterward Castaneda went back to filling his tank. The victim was hospitalized and has had multiple surgeries.
From there, police say Castaneda drove to the nearby city of Santa Ana where he killed a 39-year-old man outside a Subway restaurant. He then walked into the 7-Eleven across the street, ambushed a security guard, stabbed him multiple times and cut the guard’s gun from his belt.
Shortly after undercover detectives spotted Castaneda’s car. They drew their guns when he stepped outside the 7-Eleven and ordered him to drop a large knife and the guard’s gun. He surrendered, said Lt. Carl Whitney with the Garden Grove police department. Castaneda reportedly told police the blood on his clothes was tomato juice.
The guard died from his injuries at a local hospital.
Whitney told reporters Thursday there was no indication these series of attacks was a hate crime by Castaneda.
“He unleashed evil across our two cities,” said Whitney.