FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Police say Nathaniel Petgrave had been on a killing spree, targeting homeless men in Fort Lauderdale.
The 22-year-old is charged with three murders, and was apparently bent on more.
"In his conversation with detectives, he said his intention was to kill five people," said Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione.
Police said Petgrave, who was also homeless and living in this makeshift shack near State Road 7 and Sunrise Boulevard in Plantation, has confessed to the murders but won't reveal why he targeted homeless men.
"To the best of our knowledge and everything we've looked it we don't believe he targeted these victims for any reason other than their availability," said Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. Steve Novak.
Fort Lauderdale and Lauderhill Police said they worked together to bring Petgrave's murderous rampage to a quick end.
Detectives said it all started in the early morning hours of October 20th. Two homeless men sleeping in front of this abandoned gas station were found bleeding.
"One was shot in the neck and survived. The other, Larry Scott, was dead on scene," said Lauderhill Police Chief Constance Stanley
Police said they were able to link that shooting to another homicide the next night in Fort Lauderdale.
John Jackson's girlfriend made a plea to find his killer. He was shot in the head as he worked on a car in front of the Midway Food Store.
Investigators said surveillance video from that night shows the Jackson talking to Petgrave before he was killed.
Using those images, someone at a homeless feeding site recognized Petgrave.
But before police could arrest Petgrave for the two murders, they made a gruesome discovery on October 27th.
A homeless man was beaten to death at a storage facility on NW 23rd Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. And according to a police report, the words "4 STOP WAIT TIME" were written in blood
When detectives questioned Petgrave, they said he told them the number four was because he thought that was his fourth victim.
In a strange twist, Petgrave first encountered police in late September when he was firing a gun for target shooting.
An officer confiscated the weapon, but because Petgrave had a concealed weapons permit the gun was given back to him a few days later.
A search warrant shows that at some point detectives got a tip that Petgrave might be their killer.
They found Petgrave and he told them he buried the gun where he was camping out.
The gun has not been found, but police from Fort Lauderdale and Lauderhill say the casings from two of the murders are a perfect match.
In the midst of this killing spree, Petgrave was arrested for stealing a car.
He got out of jail and police believe he then committed one of the murders.
Apparently he showed up at the police station to get some of his property back from his arrest for car theft and that's when detectives arrested him.
"Thank God we got him off our streets. Thank God that we have a safer street tonight, whether you be homeless or not," said Mayor Jack Seiler.
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