A man accused in a series of attacks on homeless men while they slept used railroad spikes to attack and impale his victims, according to a Deputy District Attorney.
Jon David Guerrero, 39, of San Diego, initially faced three counts of first degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson.
However, in court Tuesday, the judge suspended all criminal proceedings until Guerrero could get a psychological evaluation.
Public Defender Danesh Tandon, who represents Guerrero, said his client has an "extensive" mental health history.
"My client is severely mentally ill and there are going to be further court hearings regarding his ability to stand trial," he said, adding that he could not elaborate.
The same judge ordered an evaluation of Guerrero in a previous case.
San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey filed an opposition to the motion in court, explaining that Guerrero has demonstrated he does understand the proceedings and can go to trial.
When carrying out the attacks, Harvey said, Guerrero exhibited "such extensive planning, such sophistication," leading her in part to believe he understood what he was doing.
She argued having a mental illness is different from being found competent to stand trial, adding that it was unusual for a judge to suspend the proceedings for an evaluation so early on.
Following court proceedings, Harvey elaborated on the evidence authorities have tying Guerrero to the attacks: railroad spikes.
Harvey said in all five attacks, the victims were found impaled with railroad spikes, or with railroad spikes next to their bodies.
Guerrero is accused in five attacks that began July 3, San Diego Police said, and authorities believe he acted alone. Guerrero was taken into custody near the most recent attack at 18th and C Street. He was booked into the San Diego Central Jail in downtown.
Three of the victims died from their injuries. Two victims were expected to survive, Harvey said.
Officials found more railroad spikes in Guerrero's backpack and at his apartment, Harvey said.
If charged and convicted, Guerrero faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
There is also a special circumstance in that more than one homicide occurred in a series, so he could face the death penalty, according to Harvey.
Guerrero is due back in court on Oct. 9 for a competency hearing.