Homeless Killings: SDPD release composite sketch of suspect - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Homeless Killings: SDPD release composite sketch of suspect

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Police released a composite rendering Thursday morning of an unidentified assailant responsible for a spree of assaults in San Diego that left three homeless men dead and a fourth gravely injured.
   
Investigators hope the artist's depiction, combined with surveillance camera images of a man they believe is the killer, will prompt a tip from the public that will bring about a break in the case, which has had the city on edge since early this month.
   
On Monday, authorities set free a man who had been jailed four days earlier on suspicion of carrying out the spate of violence. Anthony Alexander Padgett, 36, was released shortly before he was due to appear in court in connection with the attacks, during which two of the victims were set on fire.
   
Over the weekend following the arrest of Padgett -- who is homeless himself -- detectives uncovered evidence that cast doubt on his guilt, SDPD Capt. David Nisleit said. The captain declined to disclose the nature of those findings.
   
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' staff agreed that releasing the suspect from custody was the appropriate decision'' in light of the developments, Nisleit told reporters.
   
"But with that said, in an hour, or tomorrow, we could get new evidence that might point the finger back to Padgett, or to someone new,'' he said.
   
In a prepared statement, Dumanis said her office had been consulting with homicide detectives and would ``continue to assist SDPD (personnel) in any way we can during their ongoing investigation into these heinous crimes.''
   
"Our common goal is justice for the victims in this case and the safety of San Diego's homeless as the investigation continues,'' she stated.
   
Police had believed that Padgett was the person videotaped by security cameras while buying gasoline at a convenience store shortly before the burning body of the first victim was found. Detectives remain convinced that the man in the images is the killer, according to Nisleit.
   
Padgett's "strong resemblance'' to the subject in the footage, coupled with the fact that he had been convicted of committing a violent crime similar to the recent attacks, led detectives to conclude that they had good reason to jail him, Nisleit said.
   
In 2010, Padgett was convicted of assault and mayhem for setting a sleeping fellow transient on fire in Chula Vista and was sentenced to four years in prison. He blamed drugs for the attack and claimed that he only intended to scare the victim.
   
Investigators have concluded that the man depicted in the surveillance video killed 53-year-old Angelo De Nardo, whose burning body was found the morning of July 3 in an open area off the 2700 block of Morena Boulevard in Bay Park; 41-year-old Shawn Longley, found dead at a park on Bacon Street in Ocean Beach the following day; and 23-year-old Dionicio Vahidy, who was gravely injured early on the morning of July 6 in the area of Broadway and State Street
in downtown San Diego and left with a towel burning top of him. Vahidy died in a hospital four days later.
   
The same assailant also is believed to be responsible for an attack that severely wounded 61-year-old Manuel Mason near Valley View Casino Center in the Midway district shortly before 5 a.m. on the Fourth of July.

City officials have repeatedly called the case the top priority for the San Diego Police Department, whose leadership has pledged to devote maximum
patrol and investigative resources to it while the perpetrator remains at large.

Anyone with information about the attacks is asked to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477 or contact the agency online at sdcrimestoppers.org. Tipsters may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

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