LA MESA (NEWS 8/CNS) - Two women were seriously wounded early Tuesday in apparently random stabbings that occurred within minutes of each other in downtown El Cajon and in an unincorporated community several miles to the south, and a suspect was arrested hours later following a high-speed road chase.
Sheriff's deputies began chasing that suspect in his blood-soaked Mercedes-Benz sometime before 3:30 a.m. in Spring Valley, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph before the man abandoned his car and escaped on foot just a few miles north of the Mexican border, Sheriff's Lt. Tom Seiver said.
News 8's chopper showed deputies and border patrol agents walking with a handcuffed man a little after 8 a.m., apparently putting an end to the manhunt and a crime spree that began about five hours earlier with the wounded, bloody woman dumped in El Cajon.
Police and sheriff's officials said the wounded women were not connected to each other but believe the suspect in both stabbings was the same person, El Cajon Police Lt. Eric Taylor said.
Police began investigating the bizarre crime spree about 3 a.m. when El Cajon officers were dispatched to the parking lot of the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market at 350 North Second Street in El Cajon, where a witness reported an injured woman had just been dumped from a Mercedes-Benz sedan.
"Officers arrived to find a female victim with several significant stab wounds and massive blood loss,'' Taylor said.
It wasn't immediately clear if the woman was stabbed at that location or dumped in the parking lot after being stabbed elsewhere, the El Cajon police lieutenant said.
Medics took the victim to a trauma center, where she underwent emergency surgery for wounds to her upper body. She was listed in critical but stable condition, sheriff's Lt. Tom Seiver said.
"We are trying to determine exactly where she met the suspect at and ultimately where she ended up," said El Cajon Police Lt. Walt Miller said.
As El Cajon officers and detectives swarmed the blood-soaked parking lot, East County law enforcement received an emergency call for another stabbing a little more than four miles away, outside the 7-Eleven convenience store at 4610 Avocado Blvd. in unincorporated La Mesa, Taylor said.
San Diego County Sheriff's deputies responded to that scene, near the intersection with Fuerte Drive, at 3:06 a.m., Seiver said. There, deputies found a Frito-Lay company delivery driver, a 35-year-old woman, on the floor of the 7-Eleven suffering from multiple stab wounds.
A clerk at the 7-Eleven said the delivery driver had just finished unloading her wares inside the store when she walked outside toward her truck. She ran back into the store moments later saying she'd been stabbed. Paramedics performed CPR on the injured woman before whisking her away in an ambulance to a hospital, where she was also admitted in critical condition.
She was expected to survive, Seiver said.
The "poor delivery driver'' appeared to be attacked at random by the same person who dumped the other woman in El Cajon, Taylor said. Seiver confirmed that sheriff's officials were working with El Cajon police to determine if the stabbings were related after witnesses at the 7-Eleven said the suspect was driving a Mercedes-Benz sedan like the one seen at the El Cajon crime scene.
In both stabbings police say the suspect was a black male.
"It's believed these incidents are related on the suspect side,'' Taylor said. "The victims are not related or connected in any way.''
A short time after the 7-Eleven attack, deputies spotted a Mercedes matching the suspect vehicle and attempted to stop it near Del Rio Road and Calavo Drive in Spring Valley, Seiver said. But the suspect sped away eastbound through Rancho San Diego.
"The pursuit continued east on State Route 94 through Jamul area at speeds over 100 mph,'' Seiver said.
A deputy involved in the pursuit crashed and was hospitalized with minor injuries, while the suspect successfully evaded deputies, according to Seiver. But the blood-soaked Mercedes was later found abandoned, with front-end damage, on Campo Road east of the Hollywood Casino near the Dulzura Vineyard and Winery.
Deputies and Border Patrol agents launched a large-scale manhunt for the suspect, deploying a helicopter and police dogs. Cameras captured deputies desperately trying to pry open the Mercedes' trunk in an apparent search for more victims, but none were found when the trunk was finally breached.
About 7:45 a.m., members of the federal agency reported that they had detained a man matching the suspect's description in a remote, brushy area. Deputies took custody of him and arrested him on suspicion of felony evading of police and attempted vehicular assault on a peace officer.
Investigators remained uncertain this afternoon if the arrestee was the person who attacked the two women, Seiver said. Authorities declined to immediately release the captured man's name, citing concerns about compromising the ongoing investigation, and withheld the victims' identities.
Because descriptions of the suspect and his vehicle were general in nature, detectives were "having to work backwards to try to determine if (man in custody) is the stabber," the lieutenant told reporters. Nonetheless, authorities were not looking for any outstanding suspects in connection with the assaults, Seiver said.
There was no preliminary evidence suggesting that the assailant knew his victims, or that the women were acquainted with each other, and the motive for the attacks was unknown, the lieutenant said.