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Fathers says boys accused in fatal beatings of homeless men were also once homeless

  • Homeless Men Killed-1.jpg

    Bedding, clothing and broken glass litter a homeless encampment in Albuquerque, Monday, July 21, 2014, where three teenagers are accused of fatally beating two homeless men. The teens, aged 15, 16 and 18, have been charged with open counts of murder in the Friday night killings. (AP Photo/Jeri Clausing) (The Associated Press)

  • Homeless Men Killed -2.jpg

    An undated photo provided by the Metropolitan Detention Center shows 18-year-old Alex Rios. Rios, 18, and two boys, ages 16 and 15, were arrested in connection with the murder of two homeless men over the weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The three are scheduled for arraignment Monday, July 21, 2014 on murder charges in the slayings.(AP Photo/Metropolitan Detention Center via Albuquerque Journal) (The Associated Press)

A man who says he is the father of two of three teens charged with fatally beating two homeless men says that they too were once homeless, and he has no idea what prompted the brutal Friday night attack that police say left the victims unrecognizable.

"It's so hard that he could do that to someone where ... I mean, like I said, we came from there," said Victor Prieto, who identified himself to KOB-TV as the father of the 15- and 16-year-olds accused. "You know what I mean? We're not there now, but that's where we ... We got out of there."

His sons and 18-year-old Alex Rios were charged on Monday with murder and ordered held on $5 million bonds. The Associated Press is not identifying the minors because of their age. The teens and Prieto all have different last names.

After their arrest, the 15-year-old told police that the trio had been targeting homeless people for the past year, according to a criminal complaint. He said they had attacked about 50 people over the last few months, but had never gone that far, according to the criminal complaint.

A man at the house where police found the trio Saturday declined to comment on Monday as he watched a steady stream of reporters and photographers visit a corner lot where neighbors said the homeless regularly camped without bothering anyone.

"Everybody here seems to be pretty shocked," said William Toyama, a 29-year-old cook whose house backs up to the field between the Prieto's home and the crime scene, which Monday was littered with a mattress, a dirty pillow, clothing, broken bottles and a cinder block. "They seem to find it deplorable. Like I said, most people around here have the same opinion I do. They don't cause any trouble."

Cinderblocks were among the things the 15-year-old said the trio used to beat the men for over an hour Friday, police said. According to a criminal complaint, he told police they lifted them over their heads and took turns dropping them on the men's faces.

Toyama said he didn't know the teens, and his only interaction with them was telling them to stop throwing rocks at his dogs.

On Friday night, the 15-year-old said he was angry about breaking up with his girlfriend, and the three returned from a party and covered their faces with black T-shirts and went out to look for someone to beat up and possibly rob, the criminal complaint says.

The attack was so brutal it stunned even veteran police officers.

Prosecutors requested bonds of $1 million, but Metropolitan Court Judge Linda Rogers set it higher, citing the gravity of the alleged crimes and the suspects' potential to flee. The district attorney's office said the younger suspects were charged as serious youthful offenders, meaning they could be tried in adult court.

The two younger defendants, one wiping away tears, sat in the courtroom while Rios made his appearance by closed-circuit video from the county jail.

Family and attorneys for the three declined comment after the proceeding.

Rios told investigators he acted as a lookout while the other boys attacked the men with bricks, sticks and a metal fence pole. The younger suspects, however, told police that Rios also took part in the attacks.

Investigators have not confirmed the identities of the victims, although police found an Arizona driver's license at the brothers' home. The victims' transient background and the severity of their injuries have made identification difficult, police said.

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