By Neal Putnam
Jon David Guerrero pleaded guilty Monday to killing four people in a series of attacks on homeless people including a man who had attended Metropolitan Community Church in 2016.
Guerrero admitted to the first-degree murder of Angelo DeNardo, 53, who was the first person killed in the series on July 3, 2016, as he slept under a bridge near Mission Bay. He attended MCC for two years.
Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey said Guerrero, 42, will be sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison plus 143 years. The guilty pleas taken by San Diego Superior Court Judge Ken So cancels a June trial, which would have lasted two months.
Guerrero spoke with a raspy voice through a medical mask as he had the flu. The judge asked him several times to repeat his guilty pleas because he could not speak very well. So set sentencing for May 1.
Guerrero’s guilty pleas to first-degree murder also included victims Shawn Longley, 41, who died in Ocean Beach; Dionisio Vahidy, 23, who died downtown; and Molly Simons, 83, the only person who was not homeless who was attacked in North Park. Guerrero also admitted a special circumstance of multiple murders.
Guerrero’s parents attended the hearing and spoke with one victim, Michael Papadelis, 58, who survived. Papadelis told them, “I think there’s finally closure” with the guilty pleas.
“I don’t hate Jon,” said Papadelis to Guerrero’s mother. “I’m happy to be alive. I’m a survivor.”
Several victims were killed with railroad spikes hammered into their heads. Guerrero also pleaded guilty to arson in setting fire to two bodies, and eight counts of attempted murder and assault of victims who survived.
Police found DeNardo’s faded birth certificate, bus pass, credit card, and driver’s license that had been stolen by Guerrero and in his possession when he was arrested on July 15, 2016.
Attorney Jude Litzenberger, who was a teacher of a class at MCC that DeNardo attended, said Monday she was glad the DA’s office did not seek the death penalty in a long trial.
“What a very sad case of the challenges of mental health in our society. No winners here,” said Litzenberger. “This was truly a tragedy where both sides had victims.”
The judge granted a defense request to send Guerrero temporarily to Patton State Hospital where he had been undergoing psychiatric treatment with medications. He will return to jail before sentencing to prison.
Papadelis told reporters he was sleeping outside at 4:30 a.m. when he was struck in the face with an object that fractured his jaw and nose. He was blinded in one eye, and both eyes were swollen shut for three weeks.
“His whole life he has suffered mental illness,” said Papadelis, referring to Guerrero.
Papadelis said he was no longer homeless and would make a statement at the sentencing.
Harvey said the closest statement to a motive by Guerrero came when one victim asked him why he attacked him. “Because you’re a bum,” Guerrero told one victim.
MCC held a funeral for not only DeNardo, but also in memory of the other victims.
“Knowing Angelo has changed me,” said Litzenberger at his funeral. “I know more about how to advocate now. I listen more without judgement.”