Disturbing Southern California Serial Killings Trial Comes to a Close

The serial killings over a decade began with an attack on a Saddleback College student

What to Know

  • Andrew Urdiales was convicted in Illinois for the murders of three women
  • He was arrested in 1996 after he was pulled over with a revolver in the car that was connected to the shooting deaths
  • After trials in the Illinois cases, he was extradited to California in 2011 to face charges in the deaths of five women

Closing arguments began Monday in the trial of a man accused in the deaths of five women in three Southern California counties, including a college student who was attacked in a campus parking lot.

Andrew Urdiales, 53, was already convicted in an Illinois triple-murder case that put him on the radar of investigators in the Southern California serial killings. Urdiales was arrested in 1997 on suspicion of killing an Orange County woman when he was a Marine at Camp Pendleton. He also is accused of killing four other women, in Riverside and San Diego counties, when he was stationed at Twenty-Nine Palms. 

The Illinois slayings for which he was convicted occurred after he left the military.

Prosecutors were expected to present their closing argument Monday. Defense attorneys will likely make their case on Tuesday.

The California serial killings from 1986 to 1995 began with an attack on a Saddleback College student, according to investigators. The body of Robbin Brandley was found in a school parking lot, stabbed 41 times. She had been working earlier than night as an usher at a campus event.

"I have so many beautiful memories of Robbin and for many years the horribleness of how she died crept into my life and everybody who loved her," Maria Forrest, the victim's friend, said.

The case went cold for years, during which the bodies of several women with ties to prostitution were found in remote and secluded parts of Riverside and San Diego counties. A break came in 1996 when Chicago police investigating the deaths of three women in Illinois learned that a man later identified as Urdiales had been pulled over with a revolver in his car in Indiana. 

That revolver was matched to bullets found in the bodies of the three victims in Illinois.

It was Urdiales who then told Chicago detectives that they also might want to ask him about people in California, Orange County prosecutors said in opening statements. He subsequently spoke with Orange County investigators, and he was charged in 1997 in connection with the California slayings.

Authorities say in that 19997 confession, he gave them graphic details of a case only the killer would know, shocking family and friends. Authorities said he recounted Brandley wore, how she dropped her keys, and even the color of her purse.

"Usually memory starts fading after a couple years and you move on. That's not happening yet and I hope it doesn't happen at all," Brandely's father, Jack Reilley said. 

Urdiales was extradited to California following trials in Illinois.

Defense attorneys have argued that Urdiales suffered from a difficult childhood and was born with brain damage due to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. He confessed to police, but defense attorneys said he seem disassociated from the crimes.

To this day, Brandley's father said he isn't convinced Urdiales acted alone. He believes his daughter would have run if she was confronted by a stranger.

Defense attorneys will give their closing arguments Tuesday.

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