Suspected L.A.-area serial killer charged in 4 killings, including 3 homeless men

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A suspected serial killer was charged on Monday with murder in the fatal shootings of three homeless men in Los Angeles and a county employee who was robbed and slain after being followed to his residence, all of them over a four-day span, officials said.

If convicted as charged, Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, of Los Angeles, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the L.A. County District Attorney's Office said in a press statement.

Powell is accused of killing three homeless men in three separate shootings as the victims slept alone on a sidewalk or alley in the early morning hours of last week, from Nov. 26 through Nov. 29, the district attorney's office said.

A fourth man, described in local media reports as a project manager in the county executive's office, was followed by the suspect as he drove from a vehicle-charging station to his home in suburban San Dimas, then was robbed and shot to death, prosecutors said.

A combination of surveillance video and license plate-reading technology identified the car Powell was believed to have driven and led to his arrest in Beverly Hills on Nov. 30 as a suspect in the follow-home killing, the Los Angeles City News Service (CNS) reported, citing law enforcement officials.

A handgun found in the suspect's car has since been linked to all four killings, authorities said according to CNS.

Powell was charged with four counts of murder, one count of residential robbery and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. It was not known if he had obtained legal representation following his arrest.

A judge on Monday ordered he remain held without bail until an arraignment set for Jan. 8, CNS said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said there was no known connection among the four men who were slain and suggested that additional victims might end up linked to the case.

"Based on his criminal history, he didn't just start doing this a week ago," Luna said.

As fear generated by news of the killings gripped Los Angeles' vast homeless population last week, Mayor Karen Bass on Dec. 1 publicly urged all unsheltered individuals in the area to avoid sleeping outdoors alone. At that point, Powell was under arrest but had yet to be charged with shooting homeless people.

"The swift actions of law enforcement undoubtedly saved lives this week," District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Christopher Cushing)