The Orange County District Attorney on Monday announced he will seek the death penalty against Itzcoatl Ocampo, the former Marine accused of killing four homeless men and a mother and son in a serial “thrill-kill” spree that set a community on edge for months.
Ocampo, 24, of Yorba Linda, is charged with six felony counts of murder with special circumstances for multiple murders, lying in wait and sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a deadly weapon -- a knife.
Ocampo, who’s being held without bail at the Orange County Jail, is scheduled for trial Sept. 10 in a Santa Ana courtroom.
The cases were shocking, but even more terrifying when good Samaritans wound up chasing down the suspect and alerting authorities after a homeless man was stabbed in January outside a Carl’s Jr. restaurant in Anaheim.
The case prompted Orange County Sheriff’s investigators to form a homeless murders task force made up of the FBI and four police agencies in northern Orange County. Detectives conducted interviews with more than 200 witnesses and sifted through physical evidence recovered from at least four crime scenes.
Ocampo, who was arrested Jan. 13 in connection with the stabbing of John Berry outside Carl’s Jr., also faces charges in the Oct. 25 stabbing deaths of the mother and brother of a childhood friend -- Raquel Estrada, 53, and Juan Herrera, 34.
Authorities linked Ocampo to the crime through DNA evidence found in the home, prosecutors said.
Ocampo, who lived about a mile away from the victims’ home, is friends with Eder Herrera, who police initially arrested in connection with the slayings, but released when Ocampo was named as the suspect in the stabbings, prosecutors said.
The case was similar to those of four homeless men, who suffered a “substantial number of stab wounds to the upper body,” prosecutors said.
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Prosecutors said Ocampo was “intelligent and calculating” in planning the slayings, stalking out his victims, and carrying out “these vicious executions with no plans of stopping.”
Tony Rackauckas said Ocampo preyed on homeless men because of their vulnerability.
The first victim, James McGillivray, 53, was attacked as he slept outside a Placentia shopping center on Dec. 20.
The body of 53-year-old Lloyd Middaugh was found on a Santa Ana river trail on Dec. 27; on Dec. 30, Paulus Cornelius Smit was found dead behind a Yorba Linda Library.
The last slaying happened Jan. 13 when John Berry was stabbed outside an Anaheim Carl’s Jr.
Witnesses saw the slaying, chased Ocampo away and notified police who caught him after a search though a mobile home park in Yorba Linda, police said.