The Orange County District Attorney's office announced today it will seek the death penalty for two men: Navy deserter Pasqual Raul Loera, who allegedly slayed a Westminster couple under the pretense of buying their car on Valentine's Day 2010, and Camp Pendleton serial killer Andrew Urdiales, who is accused of murdering five women between 1986 and 1995 in Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties. The latter is the more high-profile case as Urdiales was extradited to Orange County earlier this month from the Department of Corrections in Pontiac, Illinois, where he is serving a life sentence for the murders of three women in that state.
Urdiales had actually received the death penalty in Illinois in 2002 for the murder of two victims. Then-Gov. George Ryan later commuted that to a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Urdiales again got the death penalty in 2004 for the murder of his third Illinois victim. That was also commuted to life without parole by a 2011 Illinois law that abolished the death penalty.
Meanwhile, in July 2009, the district attorneys from Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties agreed to consolidate the prosecution of the five Southern California murders under state law that allows such cases to be tried together for judicial economy and relieve the hardship for victims and their families. The OCDA is conducting the prosecution.
As a 21-year-old Marine, Urdiales is accused of driving from Camp Pendleton to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo on Jan. 18, 1986, with the intention of killing a random female. He is said to have chosen 23-year-old Robbin Brandley, a volunteer jazz piano concert usher who was approached from behind in a dimly lit parking lot and stabbed 41 times in the back, neck, chest, and hands. As my colleague Nick Schou recently noted, Brandley was the only murder victim linked to Urdiales who was not shot nor sexually assaulted. See:
- Andrew Urdiales, Serial Killer, Extradited to OC for Killing Saddleback College Student Robbin Brandley
An OCDA statement lays out the next three victims, all prostitutes, pinned to Urdiales:
Murder of Julie McGhee, Riverside County
On July 17, 1988, Urdiales is accused of picking up a 29-year-old prostitute named Julie McGhee in the Indian Wells area. He is accused of driving the victim to a remote, developing area in Cathedral City, having sexual intercourse with her, and then murdering her by shooting McGhee one time in the head. He is accused of leaving her body in the desert, stealing her personal identifying information, and fleeing the scene.
Murder of Maryann Wells, San Diego County
On Sept. 25, 1988, Urdiales is accused of picking up a 31-year-old prostitute named Maryann Wells in San Diego. He is accused of paying Wells $40, driving the victim to an alley in a deserted industrial complex, and having sexual intercourse with her. He is accused of then murdering Wells by shooting her one time in the head and taking back the $40 he had paid her. He is accused of leaving a used condom at the scene containing DNA from both him and the victim.
Murder of Tammie Erwin, Riverside County
On April 16, 1989, Urdiales is accused of picking up a 20-year-old prostitute named Tammie Erwin. He is accused of driving the victim to a remote area in Palm Springs, having sexual intercourse with her, and then murdering Erwin by shooting her three times.
After being discharged from the Marines in 1991 and moving back to his native Illinois, Urdiales is accused of returning to California for a vacation that included the murder of yet another prostitute:
Murder of Denise Maney, Riverside County
On March 11, 1995, four years after being discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps, Urdiales is accused of picking up a 32-year-old prostitute named Denise Maney while on vacation from Illinois in the Palm Springs area. The defendant is accused of driving Maney to a remote desert area in Palm Springs, forcing her to disrobe, tying her hands behind her back, and sexually assaulting the victim. He is accused of then stabbing Maney to death.
Urdiales was convicted for going on to murder three prostitutes in Illinois between April and August of 1996: Laura Uylaki, Cassandra Corum and Lynn Huber. He was arrested there in 1996 for misdemeanor unauthorized possession of a handgun, which ballistics testing showed a year later was the same firearm used to murder Uylaki, Corum, and Huber. Following his 1997 murder arrest in Illinois, Urdiales was linked to the five Southern California murders, which the OCDA claims were performed with a different handgun he took apart. Prosecutors here decided to let the Illinois judicial process conclude before extraditing Urdiales back to California.
The now-47-year-old is charged with five felony counts of special circumstances murder for committing multiple murders and the personal use of a firearm in three murders. He is being held without bail pending his Dec. 1 continued arraignment in Santa Ana.
Pasqual Raul Loera, 33, of Redlands, is charged with two felony count of special circumstances murder. The special circumstances include murder during the commission of robbery, murder during the commission of burglary, and multiple murders. He is also being held without bail and has a Nov. 4 pre-trial hearing scheduled in Santa Ana.
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On Feb. 14, 2010, Loera allegedly went to the Westminster home of Julie Palasco and Dennis Koire under the false pretense of buying an Infiniti sedan that the victims had listed for sale with AutoTrader. The unemployed Navy deserter is accused of shooting and murdering 48-year-old Palasko and shooting and critically injuring 49-year-old Koire before stealing the Infiniti. Loera is alleged to have driven to his home in Redlands, where he is said to have mistakenly shot himself in the foot, before heading to the Nevada border without seeking medical treatment. See:
Crying in pain as he limped around a Primm, Nev., casino, Loera managed to draw the attention of security before he again drove away in the Infiniti. He wound up crashing the car in a ditch, and Las Vegas police discovered it was registered out of Westminster. Asking their counterparts in Orange County to perform a welfare check on the car owners, Westminster cops discovered the body of Palasco and Koire critically wounded in the head. Loera was then arrested by Las Vegas police and brought back to Orange County to face murder and attempted murder charges.
Kiore remained in a coma for 13 months until he died in March. Loera is now an accused double-murderer.