‘They Got the Right Guy': Key Witness in Homeless Slayings

"Elliott," a gas stations clerk who sold a gas can and lighter to Jon David Guerrero before the series of killings of homeless men spoke to NBC 7 on camera about the case

A convenience store clerk who came face-to-face with the suspect accused in a series of killings of homeless men in San Diego spoke exclusively to NBC 7 about the case, saying the police now have "the right guy."

The clerk, who goes by the name "Elliott," unwittingly sold a gas can, gas and the lighter that police said was used by suspect Jon David Guerrero in the first of five attacks in sleeping homeless men on July 3.

Elliott met Guerrero about 15 minutes before that first deadly attack in the chilling series of crimes. He helped police create the sketch which was used to hunt down the suspect.

"Unless he has an evil twin out there, then they got the right guy," Elliott told NBC 7 on Monday.

Guerrero, 39, was arrested Friday will face three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson. He's scheduled to appear in court for the first time Tuesday afternoon.

Among the victims of the killing spree that spanned 12 frightening days was Angelo de Nardo, 53, who was brutally killed and set on fire just two blocks from the Shell station on Clairemont Drive where Elliott works.

Helping catch a suspected serial killer is not exactly in the store clerk handbook, but it’s a responsibility Elliott said he did not shy away from.

Elliott, still wanting to keep his real name a secret, thought back on the few minutes when he interacted with the suspected serial killer.

He told NBC 7 the encounter was nothing out of the ordinary.

“People run out of gas. Their gauges don't work, they buy gas cans, gas and walk up to their cars. It was just a normal transaction,” Elliott said.

Surveillance video of the suspect buying supplies at the store shows the suspect tapping his right hand nervously.

Elliott told NBC 7 Guerrero was talking very fast and even made a joke about it.

“Normal people would just laugh at it but he was serious. So I'm thinking forget about this guy and just get him out of the store as soon as possible," he recounted.

Elliott didn't realize how serious the incident was until two more homeless men were attacked and police came looking for the security video.

“Somebody out there is crazy, killing homeless people, homeless people. They lost their homes, probably they have nowhere to go now. They don't deserve to live? It's not right,” Elliott said.

Amid the series of deadly attacks, Anthony Padgett was arrested in the case -- before Guerrero.

Padgett had similar features as the suspect in the surveillance video. Padgett had served four years in prison for setting his homeless friend on fire.

Elliott said he was relieved to hear of an arrest in the case but when he saw Padgett was the suspect, he knew something wasn't right.

“I looked and I said, 'Oh my God, that is not the guy I sold the gas can to,'" he explained.

Padgett was later released, and police once again began searching for the suspect.

But the fuzzy footage from the store was not enough.

Homicide investigators returned to Elliott for a description of the suspect to draw up a composite sketch.

Elliott said the tense, three-hour session with a police sketch artist made him question his memory but in the end, the sketch looked like the man he encountered.

“When I looked at it, I said it looked like the guy that I saw," Elliott said.

The sketch proved affective. In less than 48 hours of its release, a San Diego police officer spotted suspect Jon David Guerrero on a bicycle on Laurel Street in Bankers Hill and made the arrest.

Again, relief washed over Elliott.

"I just did whatever anybody else would do. Again I'm not taking any credit but at the same time I was happy,” Elliott said.

The clerk credits SDPD investigators for working around the clock to catch the suspect and, as he puts it, doing an amazing job.

NBC 7 learned last week that Guerrero had a long history of crime and mental health issues and was himself living in subsidized housing for the homeless at the time of the slayings.

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