Orange County District Attorney Press Release
For Immediate Release: May 21, 2012
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff, Office: 714-347-8408, Cell: 714-292-2718
Farrah Emami, Spokesperson, Office: 714-347-8405, Cell: 714-323-4486
OCDA TO SEEK DEATH PENALTY AGAINST FORMER MARINE FOR STABBING-MURDER OF MOTHER AND SON IN YORBA LINDA AND SERIAL MURDERS OF FOUR HOMELESS MEN
SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) announced today that he will seek the death penalty against a former Marine for the stabbing-murder of a mother and her son in Yorba Linda and murdering four homeless men in a serial thrill-kill spree.
Itzcoatl Ocampo, 24, Yorba Linda, is charged with six felony counts of murder with special circumstances for multiple murders and lying in wait and sentencing enhancements for personal use of a deadly weapon, a knife, during the commission of a crime. Ocampo is being held without bail and is scheduled for jury trial Sept. 10, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-45, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD), Anaheim Police Department (APD), Brea Police Department (BPD), and Placentia Police Department (PPD). Members of these agencies interviewed more than 200 witnesses both before and after the arrest. OCSD Crime Laboratory made this case a top priority and analyzed the key physical evidence in this case. The FBI provided specialized information and expertise.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Susan Price of the OCDA Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.
Murder of Raquel Estrada and Juan Herrera
On the night of Oct. 25, 2011, Ocampo is accused of murdering 53-year-old Raquel Estrada and 34-year-old Juan Herrera. He is accused of stabbing both victims and leaving their bodies on the floor of their Yorba Linda home. Estrada was stabbed more than 30 times and Herrera was stabbed more than 60 times.
Ocampo is accused of being linked to the crime Jan. 31, 2012, through DNA evidence found at the scene. The nature of this crime was similar to the murders of four homeless men (described below), in that all six victims were stabbed in a like manner and suffered a substantial number of stab wounds to the upper body.
Ocampo is accused of living approximately one mile from the victims’ home at the time of the murder. He is accused of having a prior relationship with Eder Herrera, the son/brother of the victims, as friends from middle and high school.
Serial Murders by Ocampo
Ocampo was in the United States Marines until he was discharged in June 2010.
For each of the four murders against homeless victims (described below), Ocampo is accused of planning the murders in advance and pre-selecting and stalking his victims. He is accused of being intelligent and calculating in carrying out these vicious executions with no plans of stopping. He is accused of preying on homeless men because of their vulnerability. All four of the murders against homeless victims occurred in North Orange County using the same Ka-bar Bull Dozer knife.
Murder of James McGillivray
At approximately 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2011, 53-year-old James McGillivray was lying behind a commercial complex at 140 N. Bradford Avenue in Placentia.
Ocampo is accused of approaching the victim on foot wearing dark pants and a dark hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over the back of his head. The defendant is accused of kneeling on the victim’s chest and striking him several times in the head and upper torso as McGillivray struggled to defend himself. Ocampo is accused of then stabbing the victim more than 40 times in the head, neck, and upper torso as the victim fought for his life. After McGillivray stopped moving, Ocampo is accused of continuing to stab the victim before fleeing the scene on foot.
The murder was captured on a video surveillance camera, which had been installed by the property management company only two days earlier. The victim’s body was discovered the following morning and Placentia Police Department (PPD) began investigating this case.
Murder of Lloyd “Jimmy” Middaugh
Shortly before midnight on Dec. 27, 2011, 42-year-old Lloyd “Jimmy” Middaugh was taking shelter in the Santa Ana River Trail under the California State Route 91 underpass in the City of Anaheim.
Ocampo is accused of approaching the victim and murdering him by stabbing him more than 50 times in the head and torso. The defendant is accused of then fleeing the scene.
The victim’s body was discovered the following morning and Middaugh was pronounced dead at the scene by responding paramedics and the Anaheim Fire Department. The Anaheim Police Department (APD) began investigating this case.
Murder of Paulus “Dutch” Smit
Sometime after 3:45 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2011, 57-year-old Paulus “Dutch” Smit arrived in the area of the Yorba Linda Public Library. Ocampo is accused of approaching the victim and murdering him by stabbing him more than 60 times before fleeing the scene.
Shortly before 5:00 p.m., the victim’s body was discovered. Responding paramedics from the Orange County Fire Authority pronounced Smit dead at the scene. The Brea Police Department (BPD), who patrols the City of Yorba Linda, began investigating this case.
Based on the similarities between the three murders and suspicion by law enforcement that one person was responsible for all three attacks, the Homeless Homicide Investigative Task Force was formed on Dec. 31, 2011, with personnel from APD, BPD, FBI, OSCD, and PPD.
Murder of John Berry
At approximately 8:15 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2012, Ocampo is accused of approaching 64-year-old John Berry on La Palma Avenue in Anaheim wearing a black hooded sweatshirt. He is accused of murdering the victim by stabbing him several times.
Witnesses observed the attack and began to chase the defendant, who is accused of fleeing the scene on foot. Other witnesses called 911. Responding paramedics from the Anaheim Fire Department pronounced Berry dead at the scene.
The pursuing witness lost the defendant in a nearby mobile home park, but a law enforcement perimeter was established and Ocampo was arrested shortly thereafter. At the time of his arrest, Ocampo is accused of having blood on his hands and face.
Death Penalty Decision
Prior to seeking the death penalty, a special circumstances committee consisting of the District Attorney, the Senior Assistant and Assistant District Attorney in charge of the Homicide Unit, and other prosecutors experienced in capital cases meet and discuss the nature of the crime, the vulnerability of the victim, the defendant’s criminal record, and other factors. The committee also considers mitigating circumstances presented by the defense attorney.
California law permits the District Attorney to seek the death penalty if the aggravating factors substantially outweigh the mitigating factors. Aggravating factors are any facts above and beyond the circumstances of crime that increases the wrongfulness of the defendant’s conduct, the enormity of the offense, or the harmful impact of the crime. Mitigating factors are any facts that reduce the defendant’s blameworthiness or otherwise support a less severe punishment. The final decision to pursue the death penalty rests on the District Attorney.
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701