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Memorial for slain homeless man in Anaheim draws 100-plus people

January 14, 2012 | 10:13 pm

John Berry, 64, is warned on Jan. 5 by Anaheim Police Sgt. Mike Lynch about the serial killer preying on homeless men in Orange County.

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Some people knew John Berry from running errands at a CVS store in Anaheim, others from walks or jogs along the river trail around Yorba Regional Park.

Berry -- who was stabbed to death Friday night behind a fast-food restaurant -- was homeless, but the consensus among the people who knew him was that he wasn't a beggar. He was the latest victim in a string of killings that police suspect Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, of committing.

PHOTOS: Serial killer targets O.C. homeless

At 8 p.m. Saturday a crowd of more than 100 people gathered to pay respects to Berry. Some held candles, and children passed out yarn necklaces with plastic military toy figures as charms.

Letters to Berry were taped on the walls outside the dumpster area where he was killed. A sound system played "Yesterday" by the Beatles.

Shaun Smith, a homemaker from Yorba Linda, set up a table where she handed out candles and fliers for the service. "I used to say, 'John, what do you need?' and he said, 'Nothing. I like to go to sleep under the stars and wake up to the birds,' " Smith said. "He liked his life."

Many in the surrounding community tried to buy Berry food or gifts, and he refused their offers more often than not.

Nina Tanaka, 51, would see Berry on her daily trip to CVS, located in the shopping center he frequented. "He talked to everybody and made you feel like you knew him forever," she said. "We all lost a friend and neighbor. That's why we're here."

Alejandro Huerta, 46, works at a nearby CVS store. He would talk to Berry about religion, and Berry would cut out newspaper comics for him. "I never saw him mad," Huerta said.

For others, Berry was a source of comfort. Steve Cook, 46, met Berry on the nearby running trail off the Santa Ana riverbed about five years ago. Cook would talk to him about work stresses and Berry would quote the Bible.

"He would come back with a very simple Bible verse," Cook said. Berry was inspirational, Cook said, "because he believed what he was saying."

[For the Record, 2:47 a.m. Jan. 15: An earlier version of this post misidentified John Berry as John Barry.]


PHOTOS: Serial killer targets O.C. homeless

O.C. serial killer in custody, police say

Serial killer suspect said, 'I did something terrible,' uncle says

-- Nicole Santa Cruz in Anaheim

Photo: John Berry, 64, is warned on Jan. 5 by Anaheim Police Sgt. Mike Lynch about the serial killer preying on homeless men in Orange County. On Friday, Berry himself was killed. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times