A man was killed early Thursday after being struck on the face and head with a frying pan, allegedly by a housemate, at an independent living facility in El Cajon.
The El Cajon Police Department (ECPD) said the housemates -- who lived in separate bedrooms at the home in the 1200 block of Naranca Avenue -- were heard arguing prior to the deadly assault, according to witnesses.
As the conflict escalated, the suspect, identified by police as Brad Payton, 24, of El Cajon, allegedly grabbed the blunt household object and hit the victim.
When officers arrived at the housing facility at around 5 a.m., they discovered the victim bleeding in a bedroom, suffering from multiple injuries to his face and head. Medics were called to the home and the victim was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital.
Officials later confirmed the victim had died at the hospital. His name has not yet been released by police.
The ECPD said Payton is the sole suspect in the case. He was found by officers at the facility and was arrested on the spot. Police said he and the victim knew one another. Investigators said Payton will be booked into jail on one count of murder.
NBC 7 spoke with neighbors who said the home where the assault happened serves as a halfway house. Several neighbors said there had been ongoing disturbances at the property.
“There are people, all around the clock, in and out,” one neighbor, who did not want to be identified, told NBC 7. “They come out screaming at each other at two or three in the morning.”
That neighbor said the activity surrounding the home is worrisome, especially since there are children in the neighborhood. Naranca Elementary School is located a short distance away.
She said residents from the home have asked her for money and have also knocked on her door asking to borrow random items like a pen.
She said Thursday's assault takes her concern to a higher level.
“I’m terrified. A frying pan? What if, one day, I answer the wrong thing and they go off on me, or my kid, or my dogs barking?” she added.
Records obtained by NBC 7 show the property provides "transitional housing to single and low-income individuals with a physical or mental disability."
NBC 7 reached out to the owner of the home, Living Solutions and Services, Inc, but they did not comment on the case.
Another neighbor who has lived in the area for about a year told NBC 7 she often hears screaming coming from the home and said police frequent the property.
"There’s activity on a weekly basis," the woman, who also did not want to be identified, told NBC 7. "The El Cajon PD are here at least two or three times a week, addressing issues at the house."
"This does not surprise me -- that something actually took place because it’s a violent household," she added.
The woman said she has seen residents of the living facility throwing items onto the driveway and knocking on neighbors' doors. She believes about six people share the home, but she said she has never seen anyone supervising the facility.
"It lacks residential supervision. You can’t put that many people with mental health issues under the same roof and expect them to behave accordingly," she said. "It doesn’t work."
The assault victim’s parents, Karen and Mike McCarthy, spoke with NBC 7 Thursday as officers cordoned the home where their son had been living.
Karen said her son was "developmentally disabled" and had been living at the facility for about four to five months.
"He doesn't like to follow rules, so this is where he ended up," she added.
The McCarthys live in Pine Valley and said they visited with their son weekly. Karen said her son never had a problem with violence; she also said she was unaware of the recurring disturbances at the living facility mentioned by neighbors.
"That's news to us," she told NBC 7.
Karen said her son liked the location of the group home and never mentioned anything about any issues with his housemates. The parents said their son would talk about minor bickering over typical roommate things, but it was never anything serious.
The McCarthys said the living facility is supervised by a "house manager."
"It was my understanding that there was a house manager here but I called this morning – I spoke to him just recently – and he was at work. And, it’s like, ‘Well, how could you be the house manager if you’re at work?’" said Karen. "He said he was here and he heard nothing."
NBC 7 reached out to the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency to gather more information about the facility and how supervision at these types of homes may be regulated.