Police: Suspect in Roxy Theater stabbing possibly tied to earlier homeless murder

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A 23-year-old man possibly linked to two vicious stabbings in downtown Santa Rosa — including one Wednesday during a movie at the Roxy Theater — entered the show without a ticket after staff let him in to use a bathroom, police officials said Thursday.

Delonte Anthony Hart, originally from the Baltimore area but apparently living among Sonoma County’s thousands of homeless people the past four months, watched about 30 minutes of commercials, trailers and the start of “The Shallows” in Theater 9. Santa Rosa police said Hart, seated in the back third of the theater behind a man he did not know, allegedly attacked him about 4 p.m., stabbing him several times with a chef’s knife.

Jailed on $1 million bail on suspicion of attempted murder, Hart is also a “person-of-interest” in a similarly brazen stabbing of a well-known 32-year-old Santa Rosa man, Cirak Tesfazgi. His body was found just before 1 a.m. Monday in a downtown doorway alcove where he appeared to have set up camp for the night.

A chef’s knife was discarded near Tesfazgi’s body, police officials said. Detectives suspect that knife inflicted the more than 50 wounds Tesfazgi suffered.

Police have not arrested Hart in connection with Tesfazgi’s death.

“We are looking at him as a possibility, but there is still a lot of evidence to go through from both cases,” Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Josh Ludtke said. “It’s our goal to find out the truth.”

Little is known about Hart, who arrived in Santa Rosa from Alameda County, Ludtke said. Detectives are still trying to piece together his activities and whereabouts in Santa Rosa. So far, only a rough outline of his activities has been gleaned through his occasional contacts with law enforcement.

In 2014, Hart was reported missing from the Baltimore area, but Ludtke said he had no further details about who reported him and the circumstances of his disappearance.

An online court records database for the state of Maryland had no criminal case listings for Hart.

On June 17, Santa Rosa officers arrested Hart on Highway 12 near Mountain Hawk Drive on suspicion of being drunk in public, a misdemeanor. He was taken to the Sonoma County Jail by officers and later released, after being given a citation to appear in court, Ludtke said.

Police are canvassing homeless services agencies and campsites and talking to people who may have encountered Hart. So far, they have no idea where the man slept or if he associated with anyone locally.

But several homeless people Thursday at Depot Park immediately recognized a photo of Hart.

“He did scare me,” said Lisa Jones, 53. “I asked him to stop following me and he didn’t say anything.”

“He belongs in jail,” Serena Martin, 50, said. She’d noticed him following other people around town, too.

Verl Ramirez, 52, last saw Hart about a week ago, she said.

She described him as a quiet man who often talked to himself.

““He heard voices and stuff,” she said. “He was very disturbed, you know? He wasn’t all there.”

Ludtke said police didn’t know how Hart ended up in Santa Rosa.

But the man’s apparent anonymity ended inside the Roxy Theater.

Sitting in the the sparsely filled theater, he said nothing before attacking the 21-year-old moviegoer in the row in front of him, stabbing him from behind with a chef’s knife, wounding him in the neck and arm, and puncturing a lung, according to Ludtke.

“There wasn’t an argument, there wasn’t an exchange of looks,” Ludtke said. “From what we can tell so far, it was totally random. He singled him out as a target and ambushed him from behind with what we believe was an attempt to kill him without rhyme or reason.”

Police said the victim, Adam Lucero, is expected to survive. Lucero had recently moved to Santa Rosa from Southern California to take a job, and was a paid customer at the theater, the sergeant said.

Following the assault, Hart ran out, and other moviegoers rushed to the victim’s aid.

“I have no doubt he believed he’d killed him,” Ludtke said.

Police credited moviegoers and theater staff with their quick actions and descriptions that helped officers already downtown find Hart on the Prince Memorial Greenway.

Officers couldn’t immediately confirm who Hart was because he had no ID. His identity was confirmed after he was booked into the Sonoma County Jail.

Hart was scheduled to be arraigned on an attempted murder charge at 1:30 p.m. Friday, a Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office spokesman said.

Police asked anyone with information about Hart contact the violent crime investigations team at 543-3590.

Staff Writer Christi Warren contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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