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Police warn O.C. homeless amid search for suspected serial killer

Daryl Bossier

As they look for a suspected serial killer who has killed three transients in Orange County, local police are going into homeless encampments and haunts warning people to be careful and seek shelter.

Sgt. Mike Lynch is one of eight officers at the Anaheim Police Department assigned to warn the city's homeless to be vigilant. He said he's seen some success. Some are pooling their money to rent motel rooms. Around the parole office on Coronado Street, there are usually dozens of transient sex offenders camped overnight in old cars and trailers, but on a recent night he found only a few.

Making his rounds Thursday afternoon, Lynch found 39-year-old Ronnie Zupsic, homeless and suspicious, sitting alone under a shelter at a city park. He had a knife wound on his arm and a fractured hand from a recent fight.

"Have the cops talked to you in the last couple days?" Lynch asked.

"No."

"Have you heard about the murders?"

"No."

Once informed, Zupsic offered an immediate theory about the killer's identity: the guy he'd recently tangled with. "I bashed him in the head, and he sliced me with a knife," Zupsic said, but his description left the nature of the dispute impossible to make out.

The sergeant dutifully wrote it down, one tip among many, and urged Zupsic to seek a bed at one of Orange County's armories. There are two, in Santa Ana and Fullerton, with 400 beds between them; they have seen a reported 40% spike in usage in recent days.

Across the county, at the urging of authorities, many of the homeless are seeking beds at emergency shelters, or making sure to sleep in groups outdoors, and taking pains to make themselves less conspicuous on the streets and riverbeds. Many say it is just another version of a skill they have practiced for years — survival — in a dangerous milieu. In some cases, efforts to help are complicated by mental illness, paranoia and a deep-seated fatalism.

Each of the three homeless stabbing victims, authorities say, was alone when he was attacked. James Patrick McGillivray, 53, was killed near a shopping center in Placentia on Dec. 20; Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found near a riverbed trail in Anaheim on Dec. 28; Paulus Smit, 57, was killed outside a Yorba Linda library on Dec. 30.

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Photo: Daryl Bossier, 49, a homeless man with multiple sclerosis, watches over homeless friends near the Orange County Civic Center in Santa Ana. "A lot of people here are worried about the killer," he said. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

 
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