Garden Grove police leave the scene of a stabbing in Garden Grove, Calif., Thursday., Aug. 8, 2019. A man killed four people and wounded two in a string of robberies and stabbings in California's Orange County before he was arrested, police said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)

Suspect in deadly California rampage pleads not guilty

August 09, 2019 - 5:57 pm

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) — The suspect in a Southern California stabbing rampage that left four people dead and two injured pleaded not guilty Friday to murder, attempted murder and other counts.

Zachary Castaneda was arrested Wednesday by police responding to two hours of slashing and stabbing attacks in Garden Grove and Santa Ana.

Authorities said the 33-year-old Castaneda was covered in blood when he was taken into custody after walking out of a 7-Eleven store and dropping a knife and a gun that he'd cut from the belt of a security guard he'd just killed.

The 11 felonies filed against Castaneda also included assault with a deadly weapon to cause great bodily injury, aggravated mayhem, robbery and burglary.

He was arraigned in his jail cell instead of court. Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney, could not immediately say why.

Castaneda was kept in restraints when detectives tried to interview him.

"He remained violent with us through the night," Garden Grove Police Chief Tom DaRe said. "He never told us why he did this."

Information about his attorney was not immediately available.

One of the victims, Pascual Rioja Lorenzo, 39, of Garden Grove, was a construction worker and devout churchgoer from Mexico.

He had lived in the U.S. for more than a decade but his wife and 16-year-old son remain in Mexico, said Saul Abrego, an official with the United Pentecostal Church La Senda Antigua in Santa Ana.

Rioja Lorenzo held home Bible study events for the church, and Abrego said he believes he had just come from work and was heading to one such event when he was attacked.

"It was just a big shock for us," Abrego said.

Court records show that Castaneda was a gang member with a criminal history of assault and weapon and drug crimes.

Castaneda's criminal history dates back to 2004 and includes prison stints for possession of methamphetamine for sale while armed with an assault rifle and car theft.

Castaneda was convicted in 2009 of spousal abuse and paroled after serving about a year in prison, corrections officials said.

Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney said police had previously gone to Castaneda's apartment to deal with a child custody issue. The suspect's mother had been living with him and had once asked police how she could evict her son, Whitney said.

Court records show Castaneda's wife, Yessica Rodriguez, sought a restraining order last year after she said Castaneda threw a beer can at her 16-year-old daughter. She said she also sought an order against him in 2009 when he broke her arm during a fight.

Rodriguez filed for divorce earlier this year, court records show, and has custody of two sons, ages 7 and 12.

Police believe Castaneda killed two men at the apartment complex where he lived about an hour after burglarizing their unit, then robbed businesses, including the Garden Grove insurance agency where the 54-year-old woman was stabbed. She was hospitalized in critical but stable condition, police said.

Castaneda is accused of robbing a check-cashing business next door to the insurance agency and leaving the woman there unharmed.

Later, a man pumping gas at a Chevron station was attacked without warning and slashed so badly that his nose was nearly severed, police said. He was in stable condition.

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Associated Press reporters Robert Jablon, John Antczak, Brian Melley and Christopher Weber contributed from Los Angeles.

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