Accused Orange County serial killer Itzcoatl Ocampo appeared at his arraignment this morning but entered no plea to charges that could bring the death penalty as the hearing was postponed until Feb. 17. Given the amount of media heat generated, it's difficult to fathom anything new coming from the case against the 23-year-old former Marine accused of murdering four homeless men in what prosecutors call "a serial thrill-kill spree." But at a news conference Tuesday, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and law enforcement authorities provided the following 10 revelations . . .
Glimpse of the murder weapon: A witness to Friday night's killing of John Berry recalled seeing a man fleeing from the scene with a large knife. Here it is, according to the DA: a Ka-bar Bull Dozer, which is a single-edge, seven-inch blade made of a heavy gauge material that can slice through bone without chipping or breaking.
The shear number of stab wounds: James McGillivray was stabbed more than 40 times--before, during and after the time he was rustled awake--at a Placentia retail center Dec. 20. Lloyd "Jimmy" Middaugh was stabbed more than 50 times on the Santa Ana River Trail under the 91 Freeway underpass in Anaheim on Dec. 27. Paulus Cornelius "Dutch" Smit was stabbed more than 60 times at the Yorba Linda Public Library on Dec. 30.
Dutch Smit only recently became homeless. When the home Smit had been living in was deemed uninhabitable by code enforcement, he was forced onto the streets.
The LA Times contributes to final victim's murder. Inadvertently, of course. In its coverage of the law enforcement response to a serial killer on the loose, Times photographer Allen J. Schaben snapped Anaheim Police Sgt. Mike Lynch talking with John Berry. "We believe that the evidence will show that the defendant specifically sought this victim out for participating in this article," Rackauckas said Tuesday. "The defendant relished the media attention of the crime, and he stalked the victim until he got his prey." Ironically, 64-year-old Berry informed friends and police before he was murdered that he thought the then-wanted serial killer was stalking him.
Caught red-handed: When Orange County sheriff's deputies caught up with Itzcoatl Ocampo on the streets of Anaheim, he not only still had the knife, according to authorities, but other items linked to the killings, including gloves and a black hoodie.
Literally! Ocampo's hands, face and sweatshirt were covered in blood, according to Rackauckas.
Wide net: Cops from the Anaheim, Placentia and Yorba Linda-patrolling Brea police departments and investigators from those agencies, the FBI and sheriff's department that are part of a multi-agency task force probing the serial murders, interviewed more than 200 witnesses both before and after Ocampo's arrest. This includes motorists who passed through checkpoints set up in Placentia and Yorba Linda. The sheriff's Crime Lab "made this case a top priority and analyzed the key physical evidence in this case," the district attorney said.
Creepy sidebar to that last item: Ocampo himself passed through both checkpoints, stopping his vehicle and calmly talking to officers, according to Rackauckas. The 23-year-old went through the Yorba Linda stop just hours before Berry was murdered on Friday, but the suspect did nothing to draw attention to himself. Prosecutors believe he intended to visit the checkpoints. Perhaps it will come out in court that he did so to get caught, heighten the "thrill-kill" aspect of the crimes--or both.
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Service record cleared up: Though Ocampo was in the Marine Corps for four years and was deployed to Iraq in 2008, he did not see combat, according to authorities. But his assignment to the Marines' 1st Medical Battalion was just as sobering. He met and inspected wounded servicemen, friendlies and even the enemy that were flown into his hospital from combat zones. Family and friends claim Ocampo returned to the States a changed man, shaking, staring off, drinking heavily saying crazy things and screaming himself awake to flashbacks. The death of a Marine friend has been said to have particularly haunted Ocampo.
Timing is everything: The video surveillance camera that captured the first murder in Placentia--and produced much of the evidence the task force examined throughout the crime spree--had only been installed by the property management company two days earlier.