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Phoenix serial killing suspect seemed to live in isolation

This photo and sketch combo shows an undated photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office of Aaron Saucedo, left, and a July 2016 composite sketch provided by the Phoenix Police Department showing a suspect in a series of fatal shootings in Phoenix. Saucedo, a 23-year-old Phoenix man arrested in a string of 2016 serial killings that terrorized several Phoenix neighborhoods, is proclaiming his innocence. The former city bus driver declared "I'm innocent" during a brief court hearing Monday, May 8, 2017. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Phoenix Police Department via AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — The man dubbed by police as the Serial Street Shooter has left behind few signs of what his life was like before he was arrested in Phoenix’s first serial killings in a decade.

Aaron Saucedo, 23, didn’t have a criminal record, as many people accused of murder often have. He didn’t have a visible presence on social media as most millennials do. And he still lived with his mother and had held a series of low-paying jobs.

This hazy portrait of Saucedo emerged as police said Saucedo was a serial killer responsible for 12 nighttime shootings from August 2015 until July 2016 that unnerved residents of a largely Latino neighborhood. Saucedo declared to a judge “I’m innocent” as he made a brief court appearance Monday night.

Saucedo has held various jobs over the years, including working as a laborer for a home remodeling company and as a city bus driver. In court documents, he said he made $1,000 a month.

Police say Saucedo knew only his first victim — a man who was in a relationship with his mother and was gunned down outside the victim’s home in August 2015. Police say he used a 9mm pistol that he sold at a pawn shop two weeks later.

Less than a month after the killing, Saucedo was ticketed for failing to stop at a red light while driving a city bus in the Maryvale neighborhood — the section of Phoenix where most of the victims were killed.

He pleaded guilty to the red light violation in February 2016 and was fined $238, according to records from Phoenix Municipal Court.

Saucedo went to a public high school in Phoenix and also attended one specializing in troubled youth.

Karen Callahan, executive director of Genesis City, a nonprofit group that runs the school, said it is unknown whether he moved onto another high school or dropped out. She did not remember him getting into trouble at school

“I really don’t remember much about him,” Callahan said.

The school tries to help students who are homeless, struggling in school, expecting or caring for children, or have been released from the juvenile criminal justice system.

Saucedo’s lack of a criminal record and his apparent life in the shadows of society fits the profile of many serial killers, who usually do not have known prior criminal records, experts said.

“Without a criminal record and lacking a psychiatric history, they are not the people you suspect, and that’s how they get away with murder,” said Jack Levin, a retired professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University in Boston and the author of several books on serial killings.

Police while searching for the killer last year made pleas to the public to identify a man they portrayed in a sketch that is remarkably similar to Saucedo. They also said their suspect was driving an older model dark BMW sedan. Saucedo, police said after his arrest, had a BMW and stopped using it and changed his appearance after police made the information public.

Saucedo’s apparent behavior is in keeping with how serial killers follow their cases and attempt to avoid detection.

“He enjoys the cat and mouse chase with the police,” added Mike Rustigan, a professor emeritus of criminal justice at San Jose State University who has studied serial killings.

The killings stumped investigators for months, but they got a break last month when Saucedo was arrested in connection with the August 2015 fatal shooting of 61-year-old Raul Romero, who had a relationship with Saucedo’s mother. Authorities investigated Saucedo more closely and connected him to the other killings.

Police gave no details on a motive. Saucedo knew none of the victims except for Romero. Police have said the killer stalked neighborhoods in his car after dark, selecting victims who were standing outside homes or sitting in their cars before approaching them and opening fire.

Efforts to reach relatives of Saucedo were unsuccessful.

Dean Roskosz, Saucedo’s court-appointed lawyer, has not returned repeated phone messages seeking comment.

Evidence outlined in documents that police submitted to a judge to justify the charges have been sealed at the request of prosecutors because the case is considered an ongoing investigation.

Maryvale resident and former state lawmaker Lydia Hernandez said that authorities should make the information public to be transparent about the case.

Relatives of victims said they were pleased an arrest was made but wished it happened sooner.

“It was about time,” said Graciela Beltran, breaking down in tears in her living room as she recounted the life and death of her son, 32-year-old Horacio de Jesus Pena.

He was shot dead outside his home on June 3, 2016 just after he returned home from work at his job at an assisted living facility.

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