Orange County prosecutors could seek the death penalty against an Iraq war veteran suspected in the stabbing deaths of four homeless men.
Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, of Yorba Linda, was being held Sunday without bail on a murder charge in the Orange County Jail, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s online inmate information site.
He is expected in court on Wednesday, records show.
Police arrested Ocampo on Friday after the fatal stabbing attack of a homeless man behind an Anaheim Carl's Jr. at 3110 E. La Palma Ave.
Police say the drama was seen by more than two dozen witnesses who chased the suspect, saw him shed clothes and directed police to him, said Anaheim police Sgt. Bob Dunn, a spokesman.
“Unfortunately somebody died, another homeless man lost his life, but witnesses being there really did allow us to capture a murderer,” Dunn said.
During a Saturday afternoon press conference, police said they believe Ocampo is the same person responsible for a month-long string of transient slayings in Orange County. The stabbings set a community on edge and prompted a local and federal police task force to track down a serial killer.
Police connected Ocampo to the stabbings of James McGillivray, 53, in Placentia on Dec. 20; Lloyd Middaugh, 42, in Anaheim on Dec. 28; and Paulus Cornelius Smit, 57, in Yorba Linda on Dec. 30.
Surveillance video taken prior to McGillivray's slaying in Placentia showed a male wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt.
“We are extremely confident that we have the man who is responsible for all four murders of homeless men in Orange County,'' Anaheim police Chief John Welter said Saturday.
The fourth killing left a homeless man who went by the name John dead near the spot he frequented daily. Local residents on Saturday paid a moving tribute to John, believed to be a Vietnam War veteran.
Media reports identified him as John Berry, but authorities have not officially identified him as they are still trying to contact family members, Dunn said.
Ocampo was a 2006 graduate of Esparanza High School, according to media reports. He was believed to have been a U.S. Marine who fought in Iraq.
High school friend Brian Doyle told the Los Angeles Times that Ocampo had been kicked out the military. A Marine Corps spokesman did not return calls to The Times, seeking his service records.
Ocampo's first name is Nahautl for obsidian serpent, the name of the fourth Aztec emperor, who reigned from 1428-1440.
An uncle, Ifrain Gonzalez, told The Times that Ocampo came home from the war in 2010 with some mental illness issues. He had been living with two siblings in a home that Anaheim police searched after his arrest.
Police would not confirm his background.
“It may play into our investigation,” Dunn said. “We’re not ready to talk about it just yet.”
Investigators, meanwhile, continue to probe the homeless killings. Police want to find the owner of a white, four-door 2000 to 2003 Toyota Corolla that was seen in the surveillance video. They don’t believe the person is a suspect, but still would like to question him or her about the car, Dunn said.
“There are leads to follow up on,” Dunn said.