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O.C. police search for serial killer; memorial for victim created

January 6, 2012 |  9:13 am

Click here to see more photos.Orange County authorities continued to search for an alleged serial killer believed to have killed three homeless men as a memorial grew for one of the victims.

Investigators, including the FBI, said that a white, four-door Toyota could be involved in the crimes, as shown in a surveillance video taken Dec. 20 at a Placentia shopping center, the scene of the first killing.

James Patrick McGillivray, 53, was killed on Dec. 20. at the center, which is also home to Charity's Closet, a thrift shop that donates proceeds to a local shelter.

PHOTOS: Serial killer targeting Orange County homeless

A makeshift memorial continued to grow at the shopping center, with such additions as a small potted Christmas tree decorated with red bows, and a tag that read "Jim we know you're at peace with mom."

Barbara Goff, the founder of the store, said that the area is not a place where she sees homeless people frequently.

She said she had seen McGillivray a handful of times, and sometimes volunteers at the thrift shop would offer him food or a gift card. She said in the last six years, she had only seen one other homeless person in the area.

"He was happy doing what he was doing," she said.

Police on Thursday did not release any further information regarding the killings, but Sgt. Bob Dunn with the Anaheim Police Department said that calls are coming in "pretty consistently."

He would not comment on any new information about the suspect or about the mechanics of the crimes.

Meanwhile, seasonal armories in the area saw a 40% increase in shelter use over the last two days.

The primary demographic in the emergency shelters, located in Santa Ana and Fullerton, tend to be single males such as the ones killed from Dec. 20 to Dec. 30, said Larry Haynes, the executive director of Mercy House, a nonprofit group that works with the homeless.

"It's a reasonable assumption to say something is going on," he said.

He said workers are encouraging the homeless to stay with other people and use the buddy system.

"Obviously there's a psychopath out there," he said.

Melinda Steep, the director of the Yorba Linda library where Paulus Smit, 57, was stabbed, said she is still sad and shocked at the news.

"We all knew who he was," she said.

Smit had been frequenting the library "almost daily" for about a year, a rarity for the homeless in the area. She said Smit wasn't technology savvy so he usually enlisted the help of the reference desk. He liked to read newspapers and magazines.

"He was kind," she said, adding that staff members quickly knew who the victim might be when his bike was left outside at the racks.

"It's hard to know that one of our regulars is gone forever," she said.


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Photo: A surveillance video shows a figure moving toward James Patrick McGillivray, who was killed in a Placentia shopping center Dec. 20. Credit: Anaheim Police Department