A serial killer is potentially on the loose in Phoenix as police are hunting the killer who gunned down five people in the Maryvale neighborhood — a case that has them completely stumped so far.
The killings have taken place all in the past four months, with victims ranging from the age of 12 to 32. As police investigated each separately, they began to find links and now believe that there could be one killer somehow targeting people in the working-class area of Arizona’s largest city.
Reports of a potential serial killer in Phoenix have been circulating for several days now, but police made the strongest connection yet between the four murders. The circumstances have been the same for each: the victims were all gunned down outside their homes, near their cars, and on weekend evenings, NBC News noted, and police say they now have physical evidence linking all the killings.
As police are desperately trying to find clues about the potential serial killer’s identity, the lack of progress has been frustrating for families of the victims. Nancy Pena, whose twin brother, Horacio de Jesus Pena, was one of those murdered, said she had no idea why anyone would want to hurt him. She is also upset that no one has come forward with information about his slaying.
“For not one person to have more information is mind-blowing,” she said. “This person is still out there. We need to get them off the street.”
The first victim was 21-year-old Diego Verdugo-Sanchez, who was shot to death on April 1 after leaving the house of his pregnant fiancee’s family to make sure his car door was locked. There was a lull of more than two months before the next killing, the one targeting Pena. He was ambushed after stepping out of his family’s car on June 3, NBC News noted.
The next killing was one week later, when 19-year-old Manuel Castro Garcia was killed outside his home. Angelina Linner, 31, was killed next along with 12-year-old Maleah Russell when the killer opened fire on a group of people listening to music.
In late June, police went door-to-door in the neighborhood where the killings have taken place, handing out fliers about the unsolved cases and hunting for any possible clues.
“Since that time, detectives have identified enough similarities between incidents to believe that the same suspect or suspects are responsible for all four incidents,” Sgt. Jonathan Howard said in a news conference, via KPHO.
But even though police have been able to link the shootings and find some kind of physical evidence, the hunt for the Phoenix serial killer remains cold. Police have been unable to find any possible link between the victims and still don’t know if it’s a single killer, or a group.
“There’s been no activity, very few tips,” Phoenix Police Sgt. Jon Howard told NBC News.
Police are looking for more help in tracking down the Phoenix serial killer. A group called Silent Witness has offered an $11,000 reward for information on the cases, and police are making public pleas for anyone with information to come forward and share it.
“We are asking residents to work with our police officers to protect their neighborhoods and solve these crimes,” the police department said in a news release. “It’s important to always be vigilant and if you see something, say something. Residents can always leave anonymous tips through Silent Witness.”
Police are also trying to protect the relatively small Maryvale neighborhood in case the Phoenix serial killer tries to strike again. They have announced an increase in patrols, both uniformed and undercover, and are working with other neighboring police districts for help finding a potential link with other killings.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]