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Suspect in Hollywood stabbing had history of mental illness, arrests

Dustin James Kinnear, 26, accused of slaying a woman last week outside the Hollywood & Highland complex, had been treated for multiple conditions since he was 5.

June 25, 2013|By Richard Winton, Andrew Blankstein and Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times
  • Dustin James Kinnear, a homeless man accused of killing a woman outside the Hollywood & Highland complex June 18, was well known to police in L.A. and Tucson, his hometown.
Dustin James Kinnear, a homeless man accused of killing a woman outside… (California Department…)

A homeless man accused of killing a woman visiting one of Hollywood's most famous tourist destinations was well known to authorities.

Over the last eight years, Dustin James Kinnear, 26, was arrested at least 46 times, including seven arrests for assault with a deadly weapon, according to court records and interviews. Along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he had a reputation as an aggressive panhandler and troublemaker.

His mother said he had been in and out of mental health treatment facilities since age 5 and suffered from multiple conditions that could make him violent.

"I always knew I would get a call about him being dead or doing something awful," said April Pena, who is a police detective in Tucson. "Our family is beside itself. We are really sick because we know he's taken a life. We think of him as the young person we once knew. But I've called the police on him many times."

Kinnear has roamed the streets of Hollywood since 2008. Pena said he left Tucson by train after a court had ordered him to undergo mental health treatment..

But in Hollywood, his criminal behavior got progressively worse, records show.

On the evening of June 18, he and another homeless man were sitting near the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex when Christine Calderon, 23, and a co-worker walked past. Calderon pulled out her cellphone to snap a picture of three transients displaying signs asking for money with four-letter insults and a smiley face.

One of the men demanded that she pay a dollar for the picture. When she refused, police say, two of the men pinned Calderon's co-worker against a wall. Kinnear allegedly jumped on Calderon and fatally stabbed her.

Kinnear was charged with murder last week and pleaded not guilty.

In the wake of the slaying, Los Angeles Police Department officials and local prosecutors have defended their handling of Kinnear. They said they aggressively pursued him and sought the maximum punishment available under the law.

But some officials said the case illustrates how chronic offenders with mental problems can slip through the cracks until it is too late.

"There were red flags all over this guy, and the system was color blind," said L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Kinnear built up his lengthy arrest record both in Tucson and in Los Angeles. Many of the arrests were for minor offenses such as possession of marijuana and trespassing.

In November 2010, Kinnear wandered into a Subway sandwich shop in Hollywood and tried to take a soda. A security guard confronted him. Kinnear allegedly grabbed a broomstick and starting hitting the guard on the head with it, saying, "I'm going to kill you."

He was arrested and later pleaded guilty to assault with great bodily injury. Kinnear got a year in jail for the felony assault plus three years probation. He received 49 days credit for time served and spent several months in jail before going on probation.

Within weeks of being released, Kinnear violated his probation with various misdemeanor charges such as defecating in public and failing to appear in court and for probation meetings, records show. Over the next year, judges would revoke his probation a dozen times.

In September 2011, his public defender, Marya Shahriary, told a judge of Kinnear's mental problems.

"We have a young man who is bipolar, paranoid, schizophrenic and epileptic. Before this problem, he was described taking Klonopin and Dilantin," she said, referring to two drugs used to treat anxiety, bipolar disorder, epilepsy and seizures.

Shahriary said Kinnear had not been able to make all his court appearances because he had been injured in a bike accident in Hollywood. She added that he had been trying to turn his life around by working at a West Hollywood food bank.

During this period, Kinnear was in and out of jail frequently, serving small stretches before being released. In June 2012, he was ordered to attend a year-long residential drug treatment program but fled the facility within a few weeks.

Kinnear was arrested in two more assaults in 2012. First, he was accused of attacking a fellow transient. Then, he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend with a knife and brass knuckles. Both cases were eventually dismissed because the victims failed to show up for court, according to prosecutors and court documents.

But prosecutors argued that Kinnear violated his probation by possessing the weapons and getting arrested. In December, a judge ordered him to state prison for three years and ordered that he receive mental health treatment. But that sentence was drastically reduced because he was given credit for various shorter stints in jail. He ended up serving four months before being released April 6.

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