San Diego

After Suspect's Release, San Diego Police Seek New Leads in Homeless Attacks

Police say new evidence pointed away from Anthony Padgett as the suspect in the case

What to Know

  • Three men died and one was critically injured in attacks that occurred July 3-6 in San Diego
  • All four attacks are tied to one suspect captured on store surveillance cameras buying a gas can, gasoline and lighter, police said.
  • Anyone with information can call SDPD homicide (619) 531-2293 or CrimeStoppers at (888) 580-8477.

A man arrested last week in connection to a series of gruesome attacks on homeless San Diegans has been released from custody, a major development in a case police say remains their top priority.

In a news conference on Monday afternoon, San Diego Police Capt. Dave Nisleit said investigators came across new evidence that lessened their confidence that Anthony A. Padgett should be held in jail as the suspect in the case.

Nisleit said new evidence contradicted investigators' theory that Anthony Padgett was the suspect who killed three homeless people and seriously injured a fourth.

"I don't have any evidence to keep him behind bars right now," Nisleit said.

Padgett, who was arrested last Thursday in the highly publicized case, was released on Monday just before he was set to be arraigned; he was never formally charged.

In a previous interview, Padgett maintained his innocence.

Explaining why Padgett was released, Nisleit said investigators initially had probable cause to arrest him — he closely resembled a surveillance image of the killer and also had a previous 2010 conviction of lighting someone on fire.

However, after investigating further, detective learned new evidence that appeared to point away from Padgett. Nisleit declined to elaborate on that evidence.

“I could not risk not taking him into custody and leaving him out in the community," Nisleit said. “I believe it was the right decision then and I still believe it was the right decision now.”

Nisleit said investigators are renewing their search for the serial killer.

"I want to ensure everybody that this investigation remains the No. 1 priority for the San Diego Police Department," Nisleit said.

Anyone with information on the attacks is asked to call the department's homicide unit at 619-531-2293 or, if you wish to remain anonymous, you can call Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

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