If you want an insight into the bizarre thinking of accused Orange County serial killer Itzcoatl "Izzy" Ocampo, you have to appreciate the impact movies, especially war films, and music lyrics had on the former U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran.
That's the assertion of Ocampo defense lawyer Randall T. Longwith, who believes news reports of his client's post-arrest statements to police have been taken out of context or twisted to make him appear sexually demented and a worshipper of notorious assassins Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Whitman.
"[Ocampo] does talk about Oswald and Whitman," Longwith told the Weekly. "Those words come out of his mouth, but he's not saying he wanted to be like them. He was actually giving part of a speech [to police] from Full Metal Jacket. My client is fixated on movies, especially that one."
In Stanley Kubrick's award-winning 1987 film, a tough Vietnam War era sergeant gives a speech to recruits and mentions that both Oswald, who murdered President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and Whitman, who murdered people from a tower perch at the University of Texas in 1966, were snipers trained to kill by the Marines.
"My client was yelling [during the initial interrogations]: 'F Lee Harvey Oswald. F Charles Whitman. F the Marines,'" said Longwith. "What he's really saying is, 'My mind got screwed like they got screwed in the mind.' This is a kid who went to Iraq happy and came back a shaky, distraught guy. Everybody who knew him saw this. His mind always goes to movies or song lyrics. He's fixated on one or the other. In fact, he thinks music videos talk to him, give him orders to do things."
In the wake of international media attention, Anaheim police arrested Ocampo in January for the savage murders of four homeless men stalked and killed during a period of about a month in central Orange County. Authorities later added two more victims to the list: a mother and son in Yorba Linda. District AttorneyTony Rackauckas
will decide in coming weeks whether he will seek the death penalty as punishment if his deputy, prosecutorSusan Price
, wins convictions at a future trial.
Grand jury transcripts also indicate that Ocampo admitted to Anaheim police investigator Daron Wyatt, one of the county's most accomplished homicide detectives, that he used Penthouse Magazine to excite himself before the killings.
"The detective was really pressing him hard about the sexual aspect," said Longwith. "Ocampo is asked if he got aroused from it and he says no repeatedly. He did finally say something like, 'Yeah, I've got killing in my sperm,' but it's not a sexual thing. It's just him being bizarre. Sex isn't part of this."
Asked if Ocampo was faking nutty behavior in hopes of avoiding prison or the death penalty, Longwith said no.
"He's not malingering in any way," he said of Ocampo's videotaped interrogations with Wyatt. "He's confessing everything. He's not trying to act crazy. There's no hesitation in anything he says. But he tells Wyatt about a split in his mind. There's corporal Ocampo and there's Izzy. Theses two are talking in his head to each other."
At one point, Wyatt leaves the interview room but the video continues to record Ocampo, who carried on a conversation out loud with himself.
"Wow, it's just bizarre," said the Fullerton based private defense lawyer who once served as a county public defender. He worries that grand jurors who issued the murder indictments against his client didn't get to hear any "exculpatory or mitigating evidence" because, by their very nature, grand jury proceedings are the exclusive forum of prosecutors.
"People are hearing just one side as if it's gospel," said Longwith. "Sure, he's been very responsive to questions, especially from authority figures like the police. But the truth is that he isn't fully cognizant of what's happening. For example, when I've gone to see him in the county jail I ask him how he's doing and he says, 'I'm doing great. Actually, I'm doing wonderful.' He says these things while he's in a concrete cell chained from his neck to his feet. I've never seen anything like it."
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But Susan Kang Schroeder, DA Rackauckas' chief of staff, says prosecutors aren't surprised that Ocampo and his lawyer might try to "fashion statements to fit the defense they anticipate running."
"The grand jury transcript speaks for itself," Schroeder told me. "We've had many defendants in the past who act crazy after they are arrested and get counsel. We've even had defendants eat their own poop to try to prove they are crazy--didn't work. We believe the jurors who will serve on Mr. Ocampo's case will be smart and thoughtful, and will base their verdict on the evidence."
Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno is scheduled to conduct Ocampo's next pre-trial hearing on April 20.