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PART II -- Child Molestation, Homeless Murders Scar Beach City
By Jorge Casuso
December 19, 2018 -- Two crime stories dominated the news in Santa Monica this year -- one secretly unfolded over the past two decades, while the other burst on the scene and in a matter of weeks left a trail of death.
In the second part of a series on the year's top stories, the Lookout looks back on the tragic saga of a City worker arrested for molesting children enrolled in an after-school program and a murder spree that targeted the city's homeless.
Uller's Arrest Reverberates After His Death
The arrest on October 28 of City employee Eric Uller set off a series of events that continues to reverberate after his suicide less than three weeks later.
Uller, a lead IT analyst in the City's Public Safety building, pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual crimes involving four underage boys that allegedly took place in the 1990s when he was a volunteer at the local Police Activities League (PAL).
Soon allegations surfaced that City officials were aware of Uller's behavior, leading to an internal investigation that was just getting underway when six more alleged victims came forward ("EXTRA Santa Monica City Officials Take Additional Actions as Sexual Assault Crisis Expands," October 25, 2018).
The day Uller was due back in court, he was found dead in his Marina del Rey apartment ("EXTRA Uller Found Dead in Apparent Suicide," November 15, 2018).
His apparent suicide did not put an end to the tragic case. The following week an alleged victim filed a damages claim against the City ("Alleged Molestation Victim Sues City For Failing to Protect PAL Youth," November 21, 2018).
Two weeks later, in an unrelated case, Big Blue Bus employee Larry Jamieson was arrested for possession of child pornography ("Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Superintendent Arrested for Possessing Child Pornography," December 5, 2018).
Homeless Serial Killer Leaves Trail of Death In Santa Monica, Los Angeles
The first brutal beating of a homeless man took place on the beach south of the Pier shortly before dawn on September 8; the second attack took place on the beach two days later. Both men were beaten in their sleep and survived.
By the time Ramon Escobar was arrested in the early morning of September 24 after claiming his final victim on a Downtown Santa Monica street, he had assaulted eight men in their sleep ("Suspect Arrested for Assault Monday in Santa Monica Could Be Responsible for String of Murders," September 25, 2018).
All but one of the eight victims -- a man sleeping under the pier after a fishing trip -- was homeless.
Escobar, a homeless man whose motive appeared to be robbery, beat his victims with a wooden bat police found in his car trunk.
Escobar had fled Texas after being questioned on August 30 by Houston police as a person of interest in the disappearance of the aunt and uncle he lived with.
The string of brutal assaults weren't the only ones that claimed homeless victims. Escobar's serial assaults were book-ended by the murders of two homeless men.
On July 6, staff at Saint John's Medical Center found the body of Justin Patrick Lee, a 41-year-old homeless man, slumped on a park bench ("Suspect Arrested, Victim Identified in Killing on Hospital Grounds in Santa Monica," July 9, 2018).
On October 3, another homeless man was fatally stabbed on a bench in Tongva Park, marking the third murder in Santa Monica in a month and the sixth in 2018 ("Man Fatally Stabbed on Park Bench Across from Santa Monica City Hall," October 4, 2018).
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