1 year since first Phoenix Serial Street Shooter incident

PHOENIX - The first shooting occurred a year ago Friday. A 16-year-old boy was shot and wounded while walking down E. Moreland Street around 11:30 p.m.

The next day, March 18 at almost the exact same time, a 21-year-old man was shot and wounded while standing on the street by his car on 73rd Avenue.

Phoenix police did not know the magnitude of what they'd soon be investigating.

“We did not realize we had a serial shooter on our hands,” said Phoenix police Sgt. Jonathan Howard.

The shootings would be the start of what became a violent and terrifying summer for people living in Maryvale. There would be seven more shootings before the end of July, and seven people were killed.

“We spent a lot of our time walking the neighborhood and a lot of time at block watch meetings,” said Sgt. Howard.

The third shooting was the first time a person was killed. On April 1, 21-year-old Diego Verdugo-Sanchez was killed while he was outside the home of his pregnant fiancée.

Almost three weeks later 55-year-old Krystal White was shot and killed near 32nd Street. The next shooting was more than a month after that one.

On June 1, around 10 p.m., 32-year-old Horacio Peña was shot and killed outside his home on Flower Street near 67th Avenue.

“I have faith that he will get caught," said Nancy Peña. "I’m just hoping he doesn’t strike again and be successful."

The Serial Street Shooter struck again on June 10. Nineteen-year-old Manuel Garcia was killed outside his home.

Only two days later the shooter opened fire near 67th Avenue and Berkeley Road. Thirty-three-year-old Stefanie Ellis, her 12-year-old daughter Maleah and 31-year-old Angela Linner were shot and killed.

“I’m still struggling through this -- the whole family is,” said Sylvia Ellis.

Stefanie was Sylvia’s daughter and Maleah was her granddaughter.

“They will always be with us in memory, but it’s the physical, that’s what hurts,” said Ellis.

The shooter would strike again in July but it was the last time he attacked. Police initially beefed up patrols and raised the reward to $75,000 for anyone with information leading to an arrest and conviction. Tips that were pouring in are now trickling in.

“We are still convinced the break in this case is going to come from the community,” said Sgt. Howard.

There has been little to no new information to come out for months and Ellis fears the case may be growing cold.

“To me, it’s like they put it on the back burner," she said."That’s how I feel, those are my feelings."

Phoenix police tell 12 News the case is still the department’s top priority and that the task force is still intact and operating under the theory the shooter is still out there. There is, however, the possibility the person responsible for the shootings is dead, in jail, or has left the area.

“They (investigators) are trying to leave no stone unturned,” said Sgt. Howard.

12 News has learned investigators have followed up on more than 3,000 tips and questioned many people about this case. Sgt. Howard says five or six of the people interviewed by detectives have since died.

“People can continue to theorize but the investigators are still working (to collect) hard evidence to support the theories,” said Sgt. Howard. “The evidence is minimal.”

Police are still working with the FBI and ATF on this investigation. Sgt. Howard says police departments all over the country have information about the case.

Sgt. Howard calls the case “one of the most challenging” the department has investigated.

A couple different sketches of the suspect were generated from eyewitnesses. Police have also released a description of a car witnesses described. It is believed to be a dark or black late-90’s Lincoln-type sedan or a 2000s 5 series BMW.

Police believe the shooter has access to several vehicles and are still trying to determine if he is acting alone or with other people.

The one-year anniversary is frustrating to victims’ families, who still have no answers as to who shot their loved ones.

“This person could still be out there,” said one family member. “He’s a monster.”

If you have any information that could help, you are urged to call Phoenix police at 602-262-7626 or Silent Witness at 480-948-6377 (WITNESS).

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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