A first-degree murder indictment was returned Thursday against a Baton Rouge man suspected in the December killing of three homeless people – crimes that put the homeless community on edge and prompted the formation of a law enforcement task force.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office is prosecuting Jeremy Avery Anderson, 29, as an alleged serial killer.

Anderson, of 150 South 17th St., was arrested in early January in the Dec. 13 slaying of Christina Fowler and Gregory Corcoran, and in the Dec. 27 killing of Tony Williams. All three victims were shot in the head.

An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury charged Anderson on Thursday with first-degree murder in the killing of Williams. The indictment does not mention the double slaying.

Moore explained that the first-degree murder charge allows his office to prosecute Anderson as a serial killer and use evidence of the Fowler-Corcoran slaying at his trial in the Williams killing.

“The case was indicted as a first degree murder of Tony Williams based upon the homicides of our first two victims,” he said. “This enables the prosecutor to present all the evidence at one time while retaining the right to pursue another indictment for the murder of the other victims if necessary in the future.”

There is no word yet on whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Anderson, whose case has been assigned to state District Judge Tarvald Smith.

Fowler, 53, and Corcoran, 40, were found dead beneath the North Boulevard overpass, huddled in blankets beside an empty shopping cart less than a block from Anderson's home.

Williams, 50, was found dead on the front porch of a vacant home in the 100 block of 18th Street near Convention Street. The site is a few hundred feet from Anderson's home.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul has said Anderson was arrested after officers received information from someone who had heard Anderson confess to the most recent killing. Paul said detectives executed a search warrant at Anderson's home and seized evidence linking him to the crimes, but he didn't disclose what that evidence was.

When officers brought Anderson in for questioning, he "made incriminating statements that placed him at the crime scene," Paul said. Anderson, while giving a statement to detectives, confessed to killing Fowler and Corcoran, an arrest report states.

Williams, Fowler and Corcoran were killed in an area where many of Baton Rouge's homeless residents congregate because of its proximity to several shelters and other service providers.

It appears the three victims were shot at close range while sleeping, though authorities have declined to confirm that detail.

Police don't have a motive for the killings and it's not known whether the victims were killed at random or specifically targeted — either for being homeless or for some other reason. Police said they weren't sure whether Anderson knew the victims.

After Williams was found shot to death, police said the killings were similar enough to prompt a warning that homeless residents take extra precautions and avoid sleeping outside whenever possible. They also threw additional investigative resources at solving the crimes, creating a task force involving several local and state law enforcement agencies.

Anderson has a scant criminal history in East Baton Rouge; criminal records show relatively minor offenses several years ago. He's been convicted of two misdemeanors: illegal carrying of weapons in 2013 after officers found him with a stolen gun, and simple battery the following year after his arrest on domestic abuse counts.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.