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Suspect in cinema stabbing arrested in slaying of homeless man

July 20,2016 06:09

A Macy's store theft, a pair of 8-inch chef knives, blood-stained shoes and a large batch of surveillance videos led homicide investigators in Santa Rosa to arrest the man held in a movie-theater stabbing last month in the slaying of a homeless man as ...and more »



By Kimberly Veklerov

Photo: Santa Rosa Police Department / Santa Rosa Police Department

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Delonte Anthony Hart, 23, faces murder charges in the fatal stabbing of a homeless man last month in Santa Rosa.
Delonte Anthony Hart, 23, faces murder charges in the fatal stabbing of a homeless man last month in Santa Rosa.

Photo: Santa Rosa Police Department / Santa Rosa Police Department

A Macy’s store theft, a pair of 8-inch chef knives, blood-stained shoes and a large batch of surveillance videos led homicide investigators in Santa Rosa to arrest the man held in a movie-theater stabbing last month in the slaying of a homeless man as he slept on the sidewalk.
The first victim, 32-year-old Cirak Tesfazgi, died after he was stabbed more than 50 times in front of a Sonoma County Public Health office at 418 Riley St. in Santa Rosa on June 27. Two days later, police said the same knife-wielding man went into the Roxy Theater and ambushed a moviegoer from behind as he watched the shark thriller “The Shallows.”

Police arrested Delonte Anthony Hart, 23, as he allegedly ran away from the movie theater and tried to discard a knife. He was booked that day on suspicion of attempted murder, but it took weeks for forensic evidence from the homicide case to be processed.
On Tuesday, after the test results came back, police asked the Sonoma County district attorney’s office to file murder charges.
“Both appeared to be totally random,” said Sgt. Josh Ludtke, a police spokesman.
The investigation began shortly after the first stabbing when officers found a large, high-end kitchen knife in the vicinity of the slaying scene they believed to be sold only in select stores. After calling cutlery shops in the area to learn which businesses had the make and model, investigators learned that the Macy’s store at the Santa Rosa Plaza mall sold that model.
Macy’s employees checked their inventory to find that two knives were missing and gave investigators security footage that included shots of a man roaming the cutlery area on several occasions. Store security also gave detectives a discarded package for a chef’s knife found on a stairwell outside the store.
The empty package matched the weapon in the homicide, police said.
Over the next two days, detectives pored over security footage from businesses and city cameras from the night of the killing.
Detectives spotted the same man in the Macy’s footage, which showed him exiting near the stairwell where the packaging was found, and in downtown surveillance footage that showed him walking near the scene around the time the first victim was stabbed, police said. Patrol officers identified the man as Hart.
Shortly thereafter, the theater stabbing took place.
A 21-year-old man had been watching “The Shallows” by himself when someone stabbed him through the neck, arm and chest. His injuries were life-threatening, but he is expected to make a full recovery, police said.
Officers caught up with Hart near the movie theater and found a knife in a garbage can and its packaging nearby, officials said. The knife matched the one found at the homicide scene, according to police.
Hart was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, and police obtained a warrant to collect his DNA for testing, Ludtke said.
Forensic tests established that blood found on Hart’s shoes matched the homicide victim’s blood and that fingerprints on the knife used to kill Tesfazgi matched Hart’s, police said.
Hart, who had been in custody since the movie theater attack, now also faces murder charges.
Santa Rosa police are now trying to trace his path from his home in Baltimore to the Bay Area to see if he was connected with other crimes, Ludtke said. Hart, who is homeless, spent time in Southern California before recently coming to Santa Rosa.
Anyone with information may contact investigators at (707) 543-3590.

Kimberly Veklerov is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: kveklerov@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @kveklerov

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