Anthony Alexander Padgett, 36, of Chula Vista, was arrested July 7 as the prime suspect, but could not be held in jail without charges being filed in San Diego Superior Court.
At a 3 p.m. press conference on July 11, San Diego Police Capt. David Nisleit said evidence developed over the weekend that excluded Padgett from being tied to last week’s attacks.
Nisleit asked for more tips from the public to solve the series. “We need your help. This is priority one for this police department,” said Nisleit.
Padgett appeared to resemble a man seen in camera surveillance photos, but other evidence indicated he was not involved, said Nisleit.
Padgett was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 after a jury convicted him of mayhem when he set fire to a homeless friend in Chula Vista. The prior offense contributed to his arrest. Padgett told a KGTV (Channel 10) reporter after his arrest he was innocent and resembled the attacker.
The District Attorney’s office sent out an e-mail notifying reporters Padgett would not be arraigned because San Diego Police had not submitted a case to them. A later statement said they are “consulting with SDPD detectives and we will continue to assist SDPD in any way we can during their ongoing investigation into these heinous crimes.”
“Our common goal is justice for the victims in this case and the safety of San Diego’s homeless as the investigation continues,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
The first victim was Angelo De Nardo, 53, who was killed before his body was set on fire underneath an Interstate 5 bridge near Mission Bay on July 3. The second victim, 61, was found in the Midway District, and remains in the hospital.
The third victim, Shawn Mitchell Longley, 41, was found dead near tennis courts at Robb Field in Ocean Beach on July 4. Dionicio Vahidy, 23, was found critically injured July 6 downtown, and he died on Sunday in a hospital.
The motive is unknown.