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Murder suspect believed to have been in dispute at rehab facility prior to killing

The 21-year-old man charged with the murder of an 86-year-old Fallbrook resident reportedly had been involved in a dispute at a rehabilitation facility before he attacked three men outside the Hilltop Center for Spiritual Living shortly before noon on Sept. 21.

Keith Vazquez, who is accused of punching two men in their 60s and punching and stomping Magnus Normand Johnson to death, pleaded not guilty Sept. 23 to charges of murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

The two punching victims, age 62 and 63, said they were painting the exterior of the Fallbrook church located in the 300 block of East Elder Street when a young man approached them and – without provocation – starting hitting them with his fists. The man then ran off.

In looking for the attacker, deputies from the Sheriff's Fallbrook substation found Johnson gravely injured in an alley at the west side of the church. Johnson was taken to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, where he was pronounced dead from blunt force trauma to the head and chest.

Deputies searching the area spotted Vazquez, who matched the description of the suspect, in the 700 block of East Fallbrook St. at approximately 12:30 p.m. and detained him. Vazquez was then positively identified by witnesses as the attacker and subsequently arrested.

Lt. Kenneth Nelson of the San Diego County Sheriff's homicide division said Sept. 27 that Vazquez recently came to Fallbrook from Escondido.

"He did have some Escondido residency but for the past several days he had been living in Fallbrook," said Nelson. "I think he was staying in a halfway house."

When asked about a report from a caller to the Village News that Vazquez had been ousted from the rehab facility, Nelson said, "We believe that there was some type of argument that had gone on there (prior to the attacks), but we don't know if he was ousted or not."

Nelson disclosed no motive for the attacks.

"It just appears to be a random act at this point," said Nelson.

Nelson said he didn't know if Vazquez was under the influence of any controlled substances at the time of the attacks as "toxicology reports have not come back yet."

Vazquez, who faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted, will be back in court Oct. 4 for a readiness conference and Oct. 6 for a preliminary hearing.

The beating death of Johnson is the third homicide in Fallbrook this year.


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