[UPDATED with $5,000 Reward Paid:] Itzcoatl Ocampo, Troubled Former Marine, Accused Orange County Serial Killer

Categories: 2011 Homicides
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UPDATE, JAN. 25, 10:58 A.M.: Before the arrest of Itzcoatl Ocampo, the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of a serial killer preying on homeless men. Union president Tom Dominguez is scheduled to hand Donny Hopkins a $5,000 check this afternoon. The Yorba Linda 32-year-old is credited with chasing Ocampo and helping police find the suspect after witnessing the fatal stabbing of 64-year-old transient John Berry Jan. 13 in Anaheim.

The unions representing deputies and Anaheim police officers say they are also donating $5,000 to Mercy House, which provides shelter and other services to the homeless.

UPDATE, JAN. 17, 9:05 A.M.: Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas may announce at a news conference this morning that the death penalty will be sought for Itzcoatl Ocampo, the Yorba Linda 23-year-old accused of fatally stabbing four homeless men since Dec. 20. Rackauckas will be joined at 11 a.m. at his Santa Ana offices by representatives from the FBI, the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the police departments of Anaheim, Placentia and Brea, which patrols Yorba Linda, the site of one of the murders blamed on the the troubled former U.S. Marine.

The DA's office is releasing no additional information about the charges and penalties to be sought against Ocampo before this morning's press conference.

Meanwhile, more about the accused has come out since his arrest following the murder of homeless man John Berry Friday night in Anaheim:

Ocampo entered the Marine Corps out of high school in 2006 and was discharged in 2010. The death of a longtime friend overseas apparently charged him. He had recently began drinking heavily and suffered headaches and the shakes. (Clarification: The headline to this post originally described Ocampo as a "combat" Marine. According to authorities, his assignment with the Marines' 1st Medical Battalion in Iraq involved meeting and inspecting wounded servicemen, friendlies and even the enemy that were flown into his hospital from combat zones.)

His father is homeless, and 49-year-old Refugio Ocampo told the Associated Press over the weekend that his son came back from his four-year stint in the Marines, which included deployment to Iraq, disillusioned, growing even darker when the younger man lost his job and home.

The father and a Vietnam veteran neighbor urged the younger Ocampo to get medical and psychological treatment. His father told the AP his son began talking "crazy" and saying things "that did not make sense." The young man said something about the world ending.

The father says his son showed him a photograph of James McGillivray, the first homeless man killed during the recent murder spree. Itzcoatl warned Refugio it's a danger being on the streets. The son is also accused of slaying Lloyd Middaugh and Paulus Cornelius Smit.

Refugio Ocampo says he was educated as a lawyer in Mexico, immigrated to the U.S. with his wife and Itzcoatl in 1988 and became a U.S. citizen. The father was a warehouse manager and Yorba Linda homeowner.

The father later lost his job, savings and, eventually, the home. He now lives in the cab of a truck he's working on in Fullerton. He remains close with his family. Itzcoatl had been residing in a rented home on a Yorba Linda horse ranch with his mother, younger brother and sister and an uncle.

Itzcoatl Ocampo
UPDATE, JAN. 14, 4:27 P.M.: At a just-concluded press conference, Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said, "We are extremely confident we have the man responsible for the murder of all four men."

That man would be Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, of Yorba Linda, who a commenter to a previous Weekly update writes she knows as a troubled U.S. Marine recently returned from Iraq. Welter did not go into that much detail about Ocampo's  background, however. His department will request that the Orange County District Attorney's office charge Ocampo with four murder counts, the chief said.

The disclosure comes after Ocampo's home was subjected to a search warrant. The multi-agency task force created the investigate the serial killings is still receiving and seeking tips. "This investigation is far from over," one law enforcement official said at the press conference.

Welter, Brea Police Chief Jack Conklin, Placentia Police Chief Rick Hicks, FBI Assistant Special Agent in charge of Orange County Bill O'Leary, State Sen. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim), whose district includes the murder scenes, and other law enforcement officials thanked the community, homeless advocates and investigators who have worked without breaks since the task force was formed with helping to catch the presumed killer.

Welter and Conklin, in particular, thanked the people who, despite just having witnessed a murder, chased after Ocampo last night and provided detailed descriptions that aided officers with his capture.

Assistant Sheriff Mark Billings of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said Ocampo will be in the custody of the agency's jailers "for a long period of time" as court proceedings against him begin.

UPDATE, JAN. 14, 11:38 A.M.: Go to this post for more details on last night's fatal stabbing of a homeless man known as "John" and the capture of Itzcoatl Ocampo.

UPDATE, JAN. 14, 11:05 A.M.: Authorities have reportedly linked Itzcoatl Ocampo, the 23-year-old Yorba Linda suspect in the fatal stabbing of a homeless man known as "John" at an Anaheim Carl's Jr. last night, with the recent murders of other homeless men in Orange County.

Ocampo fits the description of the killer shown in grainy surveillance video that captured the Dec. 20 slaying of homeless man James McGillivray in nearby Placentia.

The task force probing the fatal stabbings of now four homeless men has a press conference scheduled this afternoon. Stay tuned . . .

UPDATE, JAN. 14, 8:31 A.M.: Gustavo here. Last night, the serial killer who has targeted homeless men struck again, killing a man behind a Carl's Jr. on the corner of Imperial Highway and La Palma Avenue in Anaheim. This time, however, a suspect was caught: Itzcoatl Ocampo. Coker will update with full details as they emerge . . .

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