Fort Lauderdale, FL – A former security guard was arrested for a series of gruesome murders after police say he attacked five homeless men in the Fort Lauderdale area, killing three.
On Wednesday, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione announced that Nathaniel Maurice Petgrave, 22, confessed to killing three men, and “told a detective he intended to kill five people in all,” the Sun Sentinel reported.
The investigation began in Lauderhill on Oct 20, after two men were shot at a vacant gas station.
Larry Scott, 65, died at the scene.
The second victim was shot in the neck, police say. He has not been identified, and is in critical condition at a local hospital.
The following day, a grocery store surveillance video recorded Petgrave as he spoke with John Jackson, 50, just two blocks from Fort Lauderdale’s police headquarters, CBS said.
Petgrave then shot Jackson in the head at close range, killing him.
Authorities said Petgrave also shot at another man outside the store, but that the round missed the potential victim, the Miami Herald reported.
An employee at a Lauderhill homeless resource facility identified the assailant in the store video as Petgrave, police said.
Investigators located Petgrave driving a stolen vehicle on Oct 24, and arrested him in relation to the vehicle theft.
“When we had him here for the auto theft, we had some suspicions, but you can’t get probable cause for an arrest warrant based off of suspicion,” police Captain Frank Sousa explained.
“We have to wait for ballistic testing to confirm that the rounds from Lauderhill and our rounds were an exact match,” Capt. Sousa said. “It’s not like TV, guys, where it’s an hour.”
Petgrave was released on bond after being charged for the vehicle theft, CBS said.
Just two days later, on Oct 27, the bloodied body of Derick Westley Tucker, 46, was found outside a Fort Lauderdale public storage unit.
Investigators recovered blood-soaked weapons at the scene, including a 9-pound pipe vice, a machete and a handsaw, the Sun Sentinel said.
On this occasion, the killer also left a message, “4 STOP WAIT TIME,” written on the ground in the victim’s blood.
Police said Petgrave did not know his second victim survived, and that he used the number “4” in his message to signify the number of people he believed he had killed.
Investigators speculated the note “may have indicated his intentions to keep on killing,” the Sun Sentinel said.
Petgrave was arrested on the same day Tucker’s body was found, after he brazenly returned to the police station to pick up some property in relation to his arrest for the vehicle theft.
The men Petgrave attacked were all homeless, authorities said. “We don’t think he specifically targeted those victims for any reason other than their availability,” Fort Lauderdale Police Sergeant Steve Novak told CBS.
Investigators learned that Petgrave was also homeless when he committed the murders, and located a camp he built in Plantation.
In Petgrave’s makeshift camp, police found “more than two dozen live rounds of 9mm bullets that match casings from the murder scene,” the Sun Sentinel reported.
“Petgrave told officers they will never find the gun he used,” WPLG reported. He did tell investigators he buried the gun in the area where he set up camp, CBS said.
The weapon has not been recovered.
Fort Lauderdale police said the investigation is ongoing.
Petgrave has been charged with three counts of premeditated murder, committing or attempting to commit a felony that could cause death, armed burglary of a business and unarmed burglary of a vehicle.
He is being held without bail at the Broward County Jail.