Killer Stabbed Homeless More Than 40 Times

Published January 17, 2012 6:18PM (EST)

YORBA LINDA, Calif. (AP) — The killer of four homeless men on the streets of Southern California stabbed each of his victims more than 40 times, the daughter of one of the victims said.

Prosecutors were expected to announce a decision Tuesday on whether charges will be filed against a Marine veteran arrested in the stabbing deaths that led police to fan out across Orange County in search of a serial killer preying on the homeless.

The district attorney's office scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference on whether 23-year-old Itzcoatl Ocampo, who is being held in isolation in a jail in Santa Ana, will be charged with murder.

Julia Smit-Lozano, the daughter of one of the victims, told the Orange County Register ( that prosecutors said her father was stabbed more than 50 times outside a library in Yorba Linda.

The killing spree began in December and led police and advocates to go on nightly patrols to urge homeless people to sleep in groups or seek shelter.

Police arrested Ocampo on Friday when bystanders chased him down after a 64-year-old man was stabbed to death outside an Anaheim fast-food restaurant.

Authorities have provided no information on evidence against Ocampo, or a possible motive. But Anaheim Police Chief John Welter has said investigators are confident they have the man responsible for the string of murders.

Ocampo is wearing a protective gown and being monitored 24 hours a day by jail personnel, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

"Obviously he has some psychological problems just by the nature of the crimes, so they don't want him to hurt himself," Amormino said.

Ocampo's father, Refugio Ocampo, said his son came back a changed man after he was deployed to Iraq in 2008. He said his son expressed disillusionment and became ever darker as he struggled to find his way as a civilian.

After he was discharged in 2010 and returned home, his parents separated. The same month, one of Itzcoatl Ocampo's friends, a corporal, was killed during combat in Afghanistan. His brother said Ocampo visited his friend's grave twice a week.

Like the men Ocampo is accused of preying on, his father is homeless.

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

Just days before he was arrested, Itzcoatl Ocampo visited his father, warning him 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 told The Associated Press. "I told him, 'Don't worry. I'm a survivor. Nothing will happen to me.'"

Itzcoatl Ocampo lives with his mother, uncle, 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.

His family described a physical condition Itzcoatl Ocampo suffered in which his hands shook and he suffered headaches. Medical treatments helped until he started drinking heavily, they 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.

In addition to the latest victim, John Berry, James Patrick McGillivray, 53, was killed near a shopping center in Placentia on Dec. 20; Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found near a riverbed trail in Anaheim on Dec. 28; and Paulus Smit, 57, was killed outside a Yorba Linda library on Dec. 30.

By Salon Staff

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