Police link 5 unsolved homicides in W. Phx, Silent Witness increases reward

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Police are looking for information about four specific cases. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Police are looking for information about four specific cases. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Police now believe one person or group of people is responsible for a series of unsolved homicides in West Phoenix, and there's a reward of up to $11,000 on the table for information leading to an arrest or indictment.

It was just a week ago that officers went door to door in the neighborhood of 63rd Avenue and Palm Lane, which is between Encanto Boulevard and McDowell Road, Tuesday afternoon to hand out Silent Witness fliers about the unsolved cases.

READ: Police need public's help solving several W. Phx homicides, warn of more violent crime (June 14)

"Since that time, detectives have identified enough similarities between incidents to believe that the same suspect or suspects are responsible for all four incidents," Sgt. Jonathan Howard said in a news alert Tuesday afternoon.

The five victims in the unsolved homicides are:

All the shootings happened within a relatively small area of town -- between 55th and 67th avenues on the east and west and between Campbell Avenue and McDowell Road on the north and south.

In addition to assigning more officers to investigate these four cases, the Phoenix Police Department is relying on the community to do its part.

"As is common in so many criminal acts, input from our community is vital to our success," Howard said. "The Phoenix Police Department is actively seeking tips and information regarding all of these incidents."

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and the City Council echoed that.

"We are asking residents to work with our police officers to protect their neighborhoods and solve these crimes," Stanton said in a news release. "It's important to always be vigilant and if you see something, say something. Residents can always leave anonymous tips through Silent Witness."

As an incentive, Silent Witness on Tuesday announced that the reward for information about the four cases has jumped from $1,000 to up to $11,000.

"Our Maryvale is home to hardworking people and families who deserve to live in a safe and peaceful environment," Council Member Daniel Valenzuela, whose district includes the area in which the crimes occurred, said. "We are committed to working with neighborhood and community members, business leaders and the Phoenix Police Department to collectively find a solution. Silent Witness gives residents a critical tool to help keep their neighborhoods safe." 

If you have any information about any one of these cases, please call Silent Witness at either 480-WITNESS (948-6377) or 1-800-343-TIPS (8477). Spanish speakers may call 480-TESTIGO (837-8446). (Click or tap phone number to call from this story on your mobile device.) You can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 if your tip leads an arrest and/or indictment.

As is common in so many criminal acts, input from our community is vital to our succes

Four cases, five victims; youngest was 12

The oldest case goes back to the night of Friday, April 1. Diego Verdugo-Sanchez, 21, was standing outside a home near 5500 W. Turney Ave. when somebody fired a gun from inside a passing car.

READ: Man killed in Phoenix drive-by shooting | Silent Witness flier (PDF)

Horacio De Jesus Pena, 32, was shot and killed just before 10 p.m. on Friday, June 3. He was just coming home from work. Officers responding to a shots fire call found him lying in the street in the neighborhood of 6700 W. Flower St.

Witnesses told police they heard the shots but did not see anything.

READ: Phoenix man arriving home from work shot dead | Silent Witness flier (PDF)

Manuel Garcia, 19, was shot and killed while sitting in his car waiting for his girlfriend the night of Friday, June 10. It happened in the area of 6500 W. Coronado Road.

Police said another vehicle approached, and Garcia had a brief conversation with the occupant(s) before he was shot.

READ: Man, 19, dies after shooting in west Phoenix; suspect sought | Silent Witness flier (PDF)

In the most recent incident involves the shooting deaths of a 12-year-old girl and a 31-year-old woman. A 33-year-old woman was badly wounded when she and the other two victims were shot early Sunday morning while sitting in a car parked in the driveway of a home in the area of 6300 W. Berkley Ave.

Stefanie Ellis, 33, was critically wounded. Her daughter, Maleah, was killed, as was her partner Angela Linner, 31.

Maleah's uncle spoke out Tuesday, calling whoever shot his family "evil."

READ: 'You got to be evil to do this,' relative of murdered girl says

Vague as it is, this case is the only one of the four in which police have any suspect information.

The shooter is described as a Hispanic male, 30-35 years old with a medium build. He was wearing red shorts and a white T-shirt and was armed with a semi-automatic weapon.

READ: 12-year-old girl, 31-year-old woman dead after shooting outside Phoenix home |Silent Witness flier (PDF)

Our Maryvale is home to hardworking people and families who deserve to live in a safe and peaceful environment.

MAP: Locations of four deadly shootings

PDF: New Silent Witness flier

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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