UPDATE: Aaron Juan Saucedo, 23, has officially been charged with an additional eight counts of first-degree murder.
Saucedo has been in custody since April 19, 2017, for the shooting death of his mother's boyfriend Raul Romero, 61, in August 2015.
In addition to the seven victims originally identified in the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter case, investigators and prosecutors also believe that Saucedo is responsible for the drive-by shooting that killed 22-year-old Jesse Olivas in January 2016. This brings the total number of murder victims to nine.
Saucedo's bond is set at $8 million. His next court appearance is July 6.
By: Claudia Rivero
Horacio De Jesus Peña arrived at his house at 67th Avenue and Flower Street in the Maryvale section of west Phoenix, just before 10 p.m. on June 3. Seconds after exiting his vehicle someone shot the 32-year-old multiple times, killing him instantly.
According to Phoenix Police, Peña's murder is linked to a string of shootings believed to be the work of the so-called 'Serial Street Shooter', a cold-blooded coward randomly targeting men, women, and children mostly at night and in predominately Latino neighborhoods. Nine shootings since March 17 have left seven people dead, including a 12-year-old girl. Two other people were wounded but survived. The creep's weapon of choice, according to investigators, is a semi-automatic pistol.
My Little Brother
From the moment he was born Horacio Peña faced an uphill battle. His twin sister Nancy---older by about 30 minutes---tells me her little brother was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He struggled with mental illness and physical challenges which often made him the target of bullies at school. "He was my everything, and I didn’t like that people bullied him," Nancy said, fighting back tears. "I saw him as the guy that I had to take care of, and for the longest time it was him and I against the world."
As an adult Horacio had a hard time holding down a job. Then a few years ago he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and ironically it was that diagnosis that, according to Nancy, helped her brother turn his life around. "He finally knew what was wrong, he got the right treatment and was able to say, 'this is what it is, and I can now focus on myself and get better,' he was able to prove that he was just as good as everyone else."
An avid runner, Horacio completed several marathons over the years. He also loved to write and frequently updated his blog where he referred to himself as a Warrior. Most recently he started working at Valley Life, a group home for adults with disabilities. Life for Horacio, it seemed, was finally working out. "I'm very proud of him and his story, and I will continue to tell it to anyone who’s willing to listen to me,” Nancy said.
The Other Victims
The other victims have been identified as: 21-year-old Diego Verdugo-Sanchez; 55-year-old Krystal Annette White; 19-year-old Manuel Castro-Garcia; 31-year-old Angela Linner; 12-year-old Maleah Russell and her mother 33-year-old mother, Stefanie Ellis.
“I don't want it to be just about my brother, but everyone of these victims were amazing and this guy took these lives for no reason and their families are in pain," Nancy said. "Hopefully we can turn this tragedy into something beautiful and get that monster off the street and have him pay for the things that he's done.”
Phoenix Police have released a sketch of a man, possibly Hispanic, in his early 20's and drives a late model, dark-colored BMW. Investigators also believe the man has access to different cars including a white Cadillac or Lincoln.
Phoenix Police Sgt. Jonathan Howard tells me that a combination of factors indicate the same person is behind the murders: "The totality of the evidence links these cases, as well as physical evidence, circumstantial evidence, and witness statements."
But they're not ruling anything out.
"It is possible there has been an additional person or persons present with the shooter. Investigators are open minded to the evidence, but no additional descriptions have been provided," Sgt. Howard said.
Investigators are reaching out to the community asking residents to come forward with information regardless of their immigration status. They say time is the enemy as this cold-blooded killer is likely to strike again. "The biggest challenge is the randomness of the incidents," Sgt. Howard said.
Silent Witness is now offering a $75,000 reward, which includes $20,000 from the FBI and $25,000 from the Arizona Attorney General's office, for information that leads to an arrest.
“This guy's not gonna get away with it, we need to make sure that people keep their ears open so that we get the right tip to police," Nancy said.
If you know anything about this case you are urged to call 480-948-6377, or toll free at 1-800-343-TIPS
Claudia Rivero Investigative Reporter/Producer