48 Hours Mystery: Escape from a serial killer
Within hours of learning about Urdiales' confession, Palm Springs Lt. John Booth and Orange County Investigator Helen Moreno arrived in Chicago.
"[It] wasn't until we got there and we were briefed... then the magnitude starts, starts setting in," Moreno says. "And you think, 'Wow, you know, this guy is a prolific serial murderer.'"
"When you walk into that room, what is going through your mind?" Spencer asks Lt. Booth.
"To be honest with you, 'don't screw this one up.' This... is as big as it gets. Don't screw this up," he laughs.
In a cramped room at the precinct, Lt. Booth sat down to chat with Andrew Urdiales, who declined all offers for a lawyer.
Booth describes Urdiales' demeanor as "very matter of fact... He wasn't scared. He wasn't upset."
Urdiales told investigators he had grown up in a close-knit family with loving parents. But he admitted that other relationships never had come easily.
"He really did not have close friends. He was a loner," says Moreno.
After a frustrating stint in the military, he was honorably discharged and moved back home to his parent's home in Chicago. He took a job as a security guard and was even voted union representative.
McKay says there's no doubt Urdiales was leading a double life.
"When he wasn't at work, when he wasn't at home with his family, he was out trying to pick up prostitutes," he says. "And God forbid if they did anything to piss him off. They were gonna die."
To investigators, Urdiales matter-of-factly described exactly how they died; how he tortured and killed eight women.
Urdiales: I walked her toward the desert... and then she turned around. This time I took the knife out. I started stabbing her for some reason.
Lt. Booth: Do you remember where you stabbed her?
Urdiales: Just in the body several times. In the chest, maybe stomach.
Urdiales: The next thing I know I had the .45 was pointed at her. And it just exploded and went off.
"It just seemed like we'd opened the faucet and he was draining the tank," says McGrath.
Booth says Urdiales remembered everything.
"We're talking years and years and years later and remembering what she said, what color of flip flops she had on, what color underwear she was wearing.
Urdiales: I remember she was wearing like a one-piece, like a jumpsuit, short-sleeved and short here... She had on like a bunch of necklaces on her neck.
Booth says all the details about what the victims were wearing and where he dumped them were spot on.
"He went down to the shoes and said, "They weren't leather tennis shoes, they were cloth tennis shoes," Booth says. "Tammie Erwin. That's exactly what they had. Exactly. She had cloth tennis shoes on... My feeling was because he knew it so well, he probably has relived this several times. It's etched in his brain."
"I was creeped out," Booth admits. "Granted I am eight inches taller than him and I'm 100 pounds heavier than him... And I was creeped out.
Robbin Brandley's murder at Saddleback College in 1986 was his first, Urdiales said. He was a Marine, stationed at Camp Pendleton.
He said it began with some unexplained incident at the base... something that set him off. He got in his car and just started driving.
Urdiales: I don't know, I was just getting aggravated. Pissed off about something. I was just driving around that area and I noticed a sign that said Saddleback College so I stopped and I just parked my car. I was walking and I had my knife with me. I don't know why.
When he spotted Robbin Brandley walking to the parking lot, he hid behind a car.
Urdiales: I started walking towards her, behind her, and she turned around and looked but didn't say anything... But then she saw the knife and she screamed briefly and I put my hands over her mouth...I think I said I wanted her purse. The next thing I know the knife went into her back once, twice, several times [sighs]. She fell...
Moreno says she is convinced that Robbin Brandley was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"He wanted to hurt somebody that was weaker than him. He wanted to hurt somebody that was vulnerable," says Cook County Prosecutor Jim McKay. But he says there is no answer to that big question of "why?"
"You'd have to get inside the evil mind of Andrew Urdiales to figure that one out," he continues. "There was a great deal of hatred and rage certainly behind every one of those stab wounds. He didn't even know her. She didn't do anything to him."
That rage surfaced again and again over the next few years, McKay says, as Urdiales became a smarter and more methodical killer.
"He planned a lot of these murders," McKay says. "He prepared himself not only to kill, but to get away with it."
Urdiales was so prepared, that in the years after he'd left California, he kept equipment for his killings in a storage locker near Palm Springs; his special "murder kit".
McKay says the murder kit contained a .45 caliber pistol, ammunition, a machete, masks, license plates from Illinois, shovels, twine and duct tape. "All types of items he used if he needed to."
Orange County Deputy D.A. Howard Gundy says Urdiales would fly in, rent a car, grab his murder kit then pick up a woman and kill her in the desert.
"You think he came back from Illinois specifically to kill somebody here?" Spencer asks.
"I think that he came out here, he was on vacation and he was looking to do what he enjoyed doing when he was on vacation," Gundy replies.
It was a vacationing Urdiales who picked up Jennifer Asbenson at the bus stop in September 1992. As with all the women, Urdiales remembered every last detail.
Urdiales: And I looked over and I pulled down the window and asked her, "Do you need a ride?" And she didn't really hesitate - she got up and she got in the car.
Urdiales: "She was a very pretty girl. Had her hair tied up in the back.
Det. Booth: Do you remember what she was wearing?
Urdiales: Well, I remember she was wearing a gray sweatshirt.
Det. Booth: OK, what else?
Urdiales: She had on white, you know, like sandal-type shoes.
His story matched Jennifer's exactly.
Urdiales: I told her to turn around and I tied her hands behind her back...
Det. Booth: OK, then what happened?
Urdiales: Suddenly I had my hands on her neck. I just started squeezing her, choking her with my hands...and I put her in the trunk... But then suddenly before I could get out there I seen the hood kind of popped open and she had her hands free at the time. ...and she went screaming"
He admitted he was furious at her escape.
Urdiales: "I just got in the car... and sped off. I just left a big cloud of dust. So that was the last time I saw her. "
But he will see her again...his only surviving victim will confront him in court.
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