Los Angeles, CA – The suspected serial killer accused of viciously beating homeless men to death with a wooden baseball bat is an El Salvador native who had been deported from the United States six times prior to his bloody rampage, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said on Tuesday.
Ramon Escobar, 47, had been deported back to El Salvador on six occasions between 1997 and 2011.
He had also been convicted of six illegal reentry and burglary offenses, ICE officials said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“After illegally reentering the U.S. following his most-recent removal, [Escobar] filed an appeal of his immigration case…in June 2016,” ICE explained. “The courts granted [his request] in December 2016.”
“ICE released him from custody on an Order of Supervision in January 2017 pursuant to the court’s decision,” the agency said.
Escobar is a “person of interest” in the late August disappearance of two of his relatives, Houston Police Lieutenant Humberto Lopez told the Los Angeles Times.
Escobar sometimes lived with his uncle, 65-year-old Rogelio Escobar, who was last seen on Aug. 26 near a Houston convenience store, Lt. Lopez said.
Rogelio’s sister, 60-year-old Dina Escobar, mysteriously disappeared after she went to search for her brother in her 2007 Chevy Uplander.
On Sep. 2, a search party discovered the charred remains of the Uplander on a Galveston beach, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Both Rogelio and Dina are still missing.
Lt. Lopez said that foul play is suspected in their disappearances. When they went to interview Escobar, they learned he had fled the state, and suspected he had traveled to California.
Investigators now believe Escobar arrived in the Los Angeles area on Sep. 5.
The vicious attacks began at approximately 6:45 a.m. on Sep. 8, when Escobar allegedly bludgeoned a man who was sleeping on a Santa Monica beach, Santa Monica Police Department Criminal Investigations Bureau Captain Wendell Shirley told the Los Angeles Times.
Investigators believe Escobar was also the perpetrator of a similar attack of a second homeless man in the same area on Sep. 10, Capt. Shirley explained.
One of the victims remains in a coma, while the other has been released from the hospital, he said.
Escobar is accused of having used a baseball bat to pummel three homeless men as they slept on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk on Sep. 16, Los Angeles Police Department Robbery-Homicide Division Captain Billy Hayes said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Two of the victims – 59-year-old Kelvin Williams and 34-year-old Braden Ridout - died as a result of the brutal attacks.
A third victim remains hospitalized in critical condition.
According to Capt. Hayes, the Los Angeles attacks were captured by surveillance cameras, which gave investigators their first “viable lead,” The Washington Post reported.
They released the suspect’s description to the public, and noted that he was bowlegged and walked with a “distinctive gait,” the captain said.
On Sep. 20, Escobar allegedly traveled to Santa Monica, where he bludgeoned 39-year-old Steven Ray Cruze Jr. to death beneath the Santa Monica Pier, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Just before 7 a.m. on Monday, Escobar struck again, leaving another homeless man with blunt force injuries to the head, according to The Washington Post.
Officers immediately canvassed the area, and an “astute” officer spotted a man fitting the suspect’s description walking along a street.
Escobar was arrested without incident, and is being held without bail, The Washington Post reported.
Investigators searched his vehicle, and discovered blood and the baseball bat they believe he used to murder Ridout and Williams, Capt. Hayes told the Los Angeles Times.
They also recovered a pair of bolt cutters believed to have been used during the seventh attack, The Washington Post reported.
“He is a violent predator,” Capt. Hayes said. “He’s preying on innocent people…In most of these cases, the victims were asleep and he went up and did it.”
According to police, Escobar has been arrested on multiple occasions since the early 1990s for offenses including assault, trespassing, and burglary.
He was incarcerated in Texas from 1995 until 2000, Capt. Hayes said.
Investigators have requested that Escobar be charged with murder in the deaths of Cruze, Ridout, and Williams, and with attempted murder charges in the attacks on his other four victims, Capt. Hayes noted.
ICE has also filed a detainer against Escobar, The Washington Post reported.