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Man Charged with 2018 Killing Spree in Santa Monica Sentenced

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By Jorge Casuso

May 6, 2022 -- A man was sentenced to 124 years to life in prison Friday immediately after pleading guilty to a spree of assaults on mostly homeless men in Santa Monica and Los Angeles in 2018 that left five dead and seven injured.

Ramon Alberto Escobar, now 50, also pleaded guilty to killing his aunt and uncle in Texas and will serve two life prison terms without the possibility of parole, according to AP and City News Service reports.

The sentences handed down by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark Hanasono came after a plea deal that spared Escobar a potential death sentence in Texas, according to City News.

California Governor Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on the death penalty in March 2019.

Authorities believe Escobar arrived in the LA area on September 5, after his aunt, Dina Escobar, and his uncle, Rogelio Escobar, went missing the previous month.

Four days later, on September 8, the first brutal beating took place on the beach south of the Pier shortly before dawn. The second attack took place on the beach two days later. Both men were beaten in their sleep.

The second victim, Juan Antonio Ramirez, 51, died of his injuries in January 2021.

The second and third fatal beatings took place in Downtown Los Angeles on September 16; the victims were identified as Branden Ridout, 24, and Kelvin Williams, 59.

Four days later, on September 20, Escobar assaulted Steven Cruze, a 39-year-old San Gabriel resident who was sleeping under the Santa Monica Pier after a fishing trip.

Cruze -- whose family testified at the court hearing Friday -- was the only murder victim who was not homeless.

According to City News Service, Cruze's mother said in a statement read in court on her behalf that "she prayed that her son didn't struggle or suffer."

She also said her son would have given Escobar money if he had been asked and was "murdered for no reason whatsoever," City News reported.

"I grieve and suffer daily," she wrote. "All of us are devastated."

Santa Monica Police arrested Escobar in the early morning of September 24 after he claimed his final victim, 63-year-old Jorge Martinez, on a Downtown Santa Monica street.

Escobar was arrested after a Santa Monica officer noticed him walking near the scene and recognized the distinctive bow-legged walk captured on surveillance videos in downtown Los Angeles the day Ridout and Williams were killed.

Detectives found a wooden bat and a pair of bolt cutters in Escobar's SUV believed to have been used in the attacks.

Although most of Escobar's victims were homeless, Los Angeles Police Department Captain William Hayes said in 2018 that the attacks did "not appear to be directed at any specific group.

"I think it was a crime of opportunity," he said.

Escobar, who is believed to be a deported felon from El Salvador who was homeless, allegedly went though his victim's belongings after committing the assaults, Hayes said.

According to the prosecution's sentencing memorandum cited by the City News, "The reasons defendant gave for killing some of the victims in Los Angeles included the following: the victims irritated him, they were disrespectful to law enforcement, or he robbed them because he needed money."

When he was charged in September 2018, Escobar did not enter a plea and indicated that November that he wanted to settle the case without a trial.

During Friday's hearing, Escobar repeated the world "guilty" after each charge was read, according to City News.

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