Calif. killings suspect's dad also homeless

Refugio Ocampo, 49, father of Itzcoatl Ocampo, the man suspected of killing homeless men in Southern California, talks about his son in Fullerton, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012.
(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

YORBA LINDA, Calif. - Just days before being arrested, a Marine veteran suspected in the deaths of four homeless men in Southern California visited his father, who is himself homeless, warning of the danger of being on the streets and showing him a picture of one of the victims.

"He was very worried about me," Refugio Ocampo, 49, told The Associated Press on Sunday. "I told him, `Don't worry. I'm a survivor. Nothing will happen to me."'

The father also said his son came back a changed man after serving in Iraq, expressing disillusionment and becoming ever darker as his family life frayed and he struggled to find his way as a civilian.

The father said he lost his job and home, and ended up living under a bridge before finding shelter in the cab of a broken-down big-rig he is helping repair.

His 23-year-old son, Itzcoatl Ocampo, is awaiting charges in connection with the serial killings of four homeless men since late December.

He was arrested Jan. 13 after a locally known homeless man, John Berry, 64, was stabbed to death outside a Carl's Jr. restaurant in Anaheim. Bystanders gave chase, and police made the arrest.

Refugio Ocampo said that on Jan. 11 his son came to him with a picture of the first victim, 53-year-old James Patrick McGillivray, who was killed on Dec. 20.

"'This is what's happening,"' the father quoted his son as saying.

Itzcoatl Ocampo had been living with his mother, uncle, and younger brother and sister in a rented house on a horse ranch surrounded by the sprawling suburbs of Yorba Linda. At the humble home, his mother, who speaks little English, tearfully brought her son's Marine Corps dress uniform out of a closet and showed unit photos, citations and medals from his military service.

The son followed a friend into the Marine Corps right out of high school in 2006 instead of going to college as his father had hoped. Itzcoatl Ocampo was discharged in 2010 and returned home to find his family in disarray, the father said.

That same month, Itzcoatl Ocampo's friend, Cpl. Claudio Patino IV, 22, of Yorba Linda, was killed in combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

"Once he received the news he was never the same," said the suspect's younger brother, 17-year-old Mixcoatl Ocampo. He said his brother visited Patino's grave twice a week.

Refugio and Mixcoatl both described a physical condition Itzcoatl suffered in which his hands shook and he suffered headaches. Medical treatments helped until he started drinking heavily, both said.

"He started drinking like crazy, too much, way too much," the father said.

A neighbor who is a Vietnam veteran and the father both tried to push Itzcoatl to get treatment at a Veterans hospital, but he refused. Refugio Ocampo said he wanted his son to get psychological treatment as well.

"He started talking about stuff that didn't make any sense, that the end of the world was going to happen," he said.