Iraq War veteran Itzcoatl Ocampo charged in serial killings of California homeless
(CBS/AP) SANTA ANA, Calif. - Itzcoatl Ocampo, a 23-year-old Iraq War veteran, was charged Tuesday with four counts of first-degree murder in connection to the stabbing deaths of four homeless men in Southern California, prosecutors said.
The charges include special allegations of multiple murders and lying in wait and use of a deadly weapon. The minimum sentence if convicted is life in prison without parole. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said a panel will be convened to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
The killing spree began in December, raising concerns that a serial killer was preying on the homeless. Police and advocates then went on nightly patrols to urge them to sleep in groups or seek shelter.
Police arrested Ocampo when bystanders chased him down after 64-year-old John Berry was stabbed to death outside a fast-food restaurant in Anaheim, about 26 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said Berry had filed a report with authorities saying he believed someone was trying to follow and stalk him. Welter said, however, that authorities were working through nearly 600 leads and tips but had not gotten to that report.
"It is unfortunate that we didn't get to him before the suspect did," Welter told reporters.
Rackauckas said Tuesday that Ocampo chose Berry as a victim because the man appeared in a news article about police warning homeless men to be careful. He says the suspect had selected additional victims. All four victims were stalked and the killer looked for the right opportunity to execute them, he said. At least three of the victims were stabbed more than 40 times.
The weapon was described as similar or the same in each of the killings - a 7-inch, single-edge blade made of heavy gauge metal.
In addition to Berry, James Patrick McGillivray, 53, was killed in Placentia on Dec. 20; Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found near a riverbed trail in Anaheim on Dec. 28; Paulus Smit, 57, died in Yorba Linda on Dec. 30.
Ocampo's family said he was a troubled man when he returned from Iraq. Ocampo's own father is also homeless.
- Fla. girl, 18, charged over underage same-sex relationship
- Jodi Arias Lawyer: Defense won't call more witnesses
- Report: Dogs removed from kidnap suspect Castro's home
- 3 teens charged with raping girl, 12, putting video on web
- Cops: Hosftra student was killed by officer's gunshot
- Report: Boyfriend charged in murder of Conn. college coed
- Police: Ex-cop once hailed as hero charged with rape
- Sources: Husband ordered cyanide before wife's death
- Arias returns to court for penalty phase of trial
- Meeting Jodi Arias: First impressions never lie, or do they?
- Jodi Arias: A timeline of a sensational murder case
- Cops: NYC man dead after "anti-gay" hate shooting
- Colorado mob attacks man thought to be sexual predator
- Ariel Castro's lawyer says he'll plead not guilty
- Authorities search for missing URI student
- Creighton Univ. professor, wife, found slain in Omaha home