Camp Pendleton Serial Killer Charged (Finally!) in Five CA Murders

Camp Pendleton Serial Killer Charged (Finally!) in Five CA Murders

On April 22, 1997, a Chicago security guard named Andrew Urdiales sat back in his chair, untied his shoe laces, and looked at the two homicide detectives sitting opposite him in the interrogation room. "I guess I'm not going to work today," he joked. Urdiales had just been brought into a police station in the south side of Chicago to explain how his handgun had been used to murder a trio of local prostitutes. He had no explanation and in a single harrowing statement, he confessed to the crimes. But Urdiales wasn't finished. He told the detectives to call the police in California. "There are a few things that they'd like to talk to me about too," he explained.

Finally, more than 12 years after Urdiales confessed to murdering five women in California--as well as abducting, raping and attempting to murder a sixth victim--the former Camp Pendleton Marine is being officially charged with those crimes, the first of which was the brutal and inexplicably random 1986 murder of Saddleback College communications student Robbin Brandley, (see "Just a Random Female," Nov. 22, 2007).

The Orange County District Attorney's Office would have preferred to have charged Urdiales long ago, but agreed to wait until the serial killer was tried for his Illinois murders, where the ballistic evidence made it all but a forgone conclusion that he'd be convicted, which he was. In contrast, other than his own confession, there is no evidence connecting Urdiales to Brandley's murder. Brandley, who was viciously stabbed in a dark parking lot outside a concert hall on campus where she'd just volunteered as an usher, was also the only victim who wasn't a prostitute or was murdered with a handgun, and her parents continue to believe Urdiales didn't act alone, in part because he repeatedly used the first person plural "we" when confessing to the crime.

In Urdiales' Illinois murder trial, his defense team sought to use that fact to assert that Urdiales was crazy--the "we" referred to him and the voices inside his head--CIA transmissions, his lawyers claimed, ordering him to hunt and kill as he was trained to do in the Marine Corps. The jury didn't buy that claim, instead agreeing with State Prosecutor Jim McKay. "He is angry, he is evil and he is depressed," he argued. "But you know what, folks? Mad, bad and sad don't equal crazy."

Urdiales received the death penalty for the three Illinois murders but the state has a moratorium that has kept him on death row indefinitely.  So far, OC prosecutors haven't said whether they will seek the death penalty against Urdiales. In an email to the Weekly, Brandley's father, Jack Reilley of Laguna Beach, said he feared Urdiales would never be executed.

"It seems highly unlikely Urdiales will be extradited unless California agrees to return him to Illinois," he wrote. "As long as the death penalty is an punishment option, Illinois won't agree to leave him in California. We don't think either state will ever execute Urdiales; Illinois has an ad-hoc ban and California is broke and bogged down in endless legal issues. We are concerned that if Urdiales stays in Illinois, he could be released sometime in the far future."


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