Iraq War Veteran Charged With Murder in Homeless Slayings

A man suspected in the serial killings was taken into custody Friday night

By Jonathan Lloyd and Vikki Vargas
|  Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012  |  Updated 2:49 PM PDT
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Tony Rackauckas, the district attorney of Orange County, says the man arrested for the deaths of four homeless men, had picked out his next victims and had stalked the ones he did kill

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Tony Rackauckas, the district attorney of Orange County, says the man arrested for the deaths of four homeless men, had picked out his next victims and had stalked the ones he did kill

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Four counts of murder were filed against a 23-year-old Iraq war veteran in connection with the deaths of four homeless men, the Orange County District Attorney's office announced Tuesday.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas conducted a news conference to announce criminal charges against Itzcoatl Ocampo. The string of four slayings began Dec. 20, and Ocampo was taken into custody Friday night after the stabbing death of a fourth victim.

"In each of these cases, the violence, the number of stab wounds increased," Rackauckas said, noting one of the victims was stabbed more than 60 times.

Ocampo, 23, of Yorba Linda, was taken into custody Friday night. Witnesses chased him from the scene of a deadly attack that occurred about a quarter-mile away behind a Carl's Jr. in Anaheim, police said.

The victim of Friday's attack was John Berry, 64, a Vietnam veteran who  slept along the bed of the Santa Ana River. The fourth victim was targeted because he spoke with media outlets about his safety concerns, the DA said.

The weapon used in the killings was identified as a KA-BAR knife (pictured, right).

The first of the four men Ocampo is suspected of killing was 53-year-old  James McGillivray, who was attacked as he slept outside a Placentia shopping  center Dec. 20. Eight days later, the body of Lloyd Middaugh, 42, turned up on  Anaheim's Santa Ana River Trail. On Dec. 30, 57-year-old Paulus Cornelius Smit  was found dead behind the Yorba Linda library.

The suspect had selected additional victims, Rackauckas said during the news conference. He also drove through two checkpoints that had been set up to catch the killer, Rackauckas said.

"I wondered whether this murderer would ever quench his thirst to kill, or who  might be his next victim," Rackauckas said. "Often these types of victims are preyed upon  because the perpetrator does not believe that anybody would care about them or  that anybody would miss them. I'm proud to live in a community where we do care  about the more vulnerable members of our community.''

A decision on whether authorities will seek the death penalty has yet to be determined, according to Rackauckas. The murder charges include special-circumstances allegations of multiple murders and lying in wait.

Arraignment was scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Ocampo is a 2006 graduate of Esperanza High School who joined the Marines and served in Iraq. Relatives told the OC Register that he was devastated by the death of his best friend, who was killed in action in June 2010.

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