Ramon Escobar, a convicted serial killer with victims in Santa Monica, has been charged with killing his cellmate in a Kern County prison.
According to Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, Escobar strangled Juan Villanueva earlier this year. The criminal complaint alleges seven special circumstance allegations based on Escobar’s seven prior murder convictions, five from Los Angeles County and two from Harris County, Texas. He is additionally accused of committing an assault with malice by an inmate serving a life sentence.
Escobar received multiple life sentences after entering guilty pleas to murder with special circumstances and attempted murder in 2002. In a Zoom call hearing, he also pleaded guilty to the 2018 killings of his aunt and uncle in Houston, Texas. He received additional life sentences for those slayings but will serve them consecutively in California.
Prosecutors said Escobar fled Texas after killing his relatives and was homeless when he began attacking people in Los Angeles and Santa Monica over the course of about two weeks in September 2018.
Prosecutors said Escobar bludgeoned victims with bolt cutters or a baseball bat as they lay sleeping on streets or the beach. All but one were homeless.
Steven Cruze Jr. was not homeless but was known to sleep on the beach after fishing trips before making the commute to his job. He was killed while sleeping under the Santa Monica Pier.
Escobar had a previous criminal record that included a five-year prison term for burglary in Texas and misdemeanor convictions for assault and trespassing, authorities said.
Escobar, who originally was from El Salvador, also had been deported six times from 1997 to 2011 but returned illegally, authorities said. In 2017 he was released from federal immigration custody after winning an appeal of his latest deportation case in an immigration court, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Now convicted as a serial killer, Escobar was serving multiple life sentences in the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation at North Kern State Prison. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charge on September 21.