Suspect in Deadly California Beatings of Homeless Men Was Deported 6 Times

A Texas man suspected of killing three people and seriously injuring four in a 17-day string of attacks on sleeping Southern California men – most of them homeless – had been deported from the United States six times and had a long criminal history, immigration officials said Tuesday night.

Ramon Escobar, 47, who was believed homeless himself, likely targeted victims to rob them, Los Angeles police Capt. William Hayes told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.

Hayes said the attacks didn’t appear to be based on any hatred toward homeless people, CBS Los Angeles reports. “I think it was a crime of opportunity,” he said. ” … It appears the motive in most of these cases was robbery.”

Escobar could be charged Wednesday with murder and attempted murder in connection with the series of attacks.

Meanwhile, authorities in Houston were investigating him for the disappearance of his aunt and uncle.

Escobar was being held without bail, but U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials have filed a detainer seeking to take him into custody if he is released, the agency said.

Escobar was first ordered removed from the country in 1988 and was deported to his native El Salvador six times between 1997 and 2011, ICE said in a statement Tuesday night.

He was released from ICE custody last year after appealing his latest immigration case, ICE said, but the agency didn’t offer any information about his current legal status.

Escobar has six felony convictions for burglary and illegal reentry, ICE said.

Hayes called Escobar a “violent predator” and said investigators believe he drove to California from Houston after his relatives disappeared, and attacked the men in Los Angeles and suburban Santa Monica beginning Sept. 8. Detectives seized a wooden baseball bat and bolt cutters police believe he used to carry out the attacks on his random victims.

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SOURCE: CBS News, The Associated Press