By NEAL PUTNAM | Uptown News
A man suspected of killing three homeless men was also ordered to stand trial Nov. 8 on a fourth murder charge of killing North Park resident Molly Simons, 83, as she walked to a bus stop in North Park in 2016.
The preliminary hearing of Jon David Guerrero, now 42, ended after five days when San Diego Superior Court Judge Kenneth So ordered him to stand trial on all four slayings as well as attempted murder of other victims who survived.
Simons’ death on July 13, 2016, appeared to be quite different than the others because she was the only woman killed and was not homeless like most of the other victims. Simons was volunteering at a local YMCA and was walking to a bus stop around 5 a.m. when she was struck with an object to the back of her head.
Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey said afterwards that Simons’ attack did fit the profile in the series in that her attacker was someone on a bicycle who hit her with a blunt object as they rode past, similar to prior attacks. Video surveillance footage was played in the hearing and it depicts a man on a bicycle near the scene of some of the attacks.
Simons was walking in an alley on Arizona Street near University Avenue. She was taken to a hospital after she was found in the alley. She was struck in the back of her head and apparently did not see her attacker. She passed away in a hospital about two weeks later from a skull fracture.
A homeless woman was also among the victims and survived. Video surveillance showed a man on a bicycle riding by, and the victim appears to get up only to fall down repeatedly. The attacks themselves were not captured by surveillance cameras.
Judge So ordered Guerrero to next appear in court on Dec. 16 to set a trial date. He has previously pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains in jail without bail.
Guerrero was in a state mental hospital for several years after a judge found him mentally incompetent for trial. Judge So presided over a trial in June on the sole issue of mental competency and the judge found him mentally fit to face the charges.
He is also charged with the special circumstance of multiple murders in which he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted.
The first victim was Angelo DeNardo, 53, who was sleeping under the Interstate 5 bridge near Mission Bay when a railroad spike was hammered into his head on July 3, 2016. His body was then set on fire. Police detective David Spitzer testified camera footage showed Guerrero buying a red gas can at a nearby service station some minutes earlier.
The next night, the body of Shawn Longley, 41, was found in Ocean Beach on a sidewalk near a park. A photo showed Longley partially inside a sleeping bag. District Attorney Investigator Juan Cisneros testified, “it appeared the assault occurred while the victim was sleeping.” A railroad spike was found near his head.
Dionicio Vahidy, 23, was found mortally wounded July 6, 2016, in Downtown San Diego and died four days later in a hospital.
Harvey said in court one victim, Michael Mason, survived a railroad spike hammered into his face, but he was left blinded in the Midway area in 2016. Mason died in July 2019.
A motive for these bizarre attacks appeared to be a comment Guerrero said to one victim who survived, said the prosecutor. A homeless man asked Guerrero why he stabbed him in the face, and Guerrero said, “because you’re a bum,” according to the witness.
When police searched Guerrero’s East Village apartment, they found identification from two murder victims in his possession along with railroad spikes.
— Neal Putnam is a local courthouse reporter.