LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The suspect in a series of vicious attacks on homeless men in LA has been charged with three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder, officials said Wednesday.
Ramon Alberto Escobar, 47, has been accused of a series of attacks on men, most of them homeless, while they were sleeping in downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Three of the men died.
Officials have said the motive for the attacks was robbery. He is also being charged with four counts of second-degree robbery.
If convicted, Escobar is eligible for the death penalty. He also could face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. The District Attorney's Office said it will decide later whether to seek the death penalty.
Escobar has also been linked to the disappearance of his own aunt and uncle from the Houston area.
He appeared briefly in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday afternoon. Cameras were not allowed to show his face out of concerns it could influence the jury in his upcoming case. A plea was not entered and he is expected back in court for an arraignment on Nov. 8
Escobar was arrested Monday after another attack on a man sleeping on the beach in Santa Monica.
Police officials call him a "violent predator."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Tuesday night that Escobar had been deported six times from the United States. He was first ordered removed from the United States by a federal immigration judge in February 1988.
He was then removed to El Salvador six times from 1997 to 2011. He also has six felony convictions for burglary and illegal reentry.
According to an ICE statement: "After illegally reentering the U.S. following his most-recent removal Alberto-Escobar filed an appeal of his immigration case with the Board of Immigration Appeals in June 2016, which the courts granted in December 2016. ICE released him from custody on an Order of Supervision in January 2017 pursuant to the court's decision."
ICE has now filed a detainer against Escobar following Monday's arrest. A detainer indicates the agency would like to take a person into custody if he or she is released from the custody of another law enforcement agency.
ESCOBAR'S ALLEGED VICTIMS:
The court complaint filed by the Los Angeles County DA's office details the names of the alleged victims of Escobar's attacks:
Alleged murder victims: Branden Ridout, Kelvin Williams, Steven Cruze.
Alleged attempted murder victims: Tievon Harmon, Willliam Rivera, Khiry Elijah Clark, Juan Antonio Ramirez, Jorge Martinez.
The complaint says all of the attempted-murder victims were left comatose, with brain injury and paralysis, after the attacks.
Most of the victims have been identified as homeless. Cruze's family said the San Gabriel man was not homeless. He was a father of two who worked two jobs and sometimes slept under the Santa Monica pier after fishing. His family has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for funeral expenses.
Corwyn McKinney said he was best friends with Kelvin Williams. McKinney told Eyewitness News they grew up together in St. Louis and both were homeless together in Los Angeles.
He said he's still trying to process his friend's death and the anger he feels toward Escobar, wondering if he'll ever find it in his heart to forgive.
"For him to take the time to prey on these people who were in these secluded spots for their own safety - he's a monster," McKinney said. "He's a monster. He's a real boogeyman, he really is."