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Homeless serial killer suspect investigated in additional slayings

February 1, 2012 |  2:51 pm
Former Marine Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, in court

Detectives are investigating whether accused serial killer Itzcoatl Ocampo was involved in the slaying of a Yorba Linda mother and her son two months before the string of fatal stabbings of homeless men in Orange County began.

Ocampo, 23, has been charged with four counts of murder in the fatal stabbings of  the homeless men, a run of violence that began Dec. 20.

Orange County District Atty. Tony Rackauckas called the slayings a “serial thrill-kill spree” and suggested the former Marine had other killings planned when he was arrested.

PHOTOS: Orange County serial killer

After Ocampo was arrested Jan. 13, investigators began to look into links to other crimes, including the double homicide in Yorba Linda, said Sgt. Jim Griffin with the Brea Police Department, which patrols Yorba Linda.

"There are some similarities,” Griffin said.

About 11:30 p.m. Oct. 25, police responded to a 911 call from a male stating he had heard loud banging and noises coming from a Yorba Linda home. Police arrived and noticed a large amount of pooled blood near the front door.

Inside they found the bodies of Juan Herrera, 34, and his mother, Raquel Estrada, 53, both of whom had been stabbed to death.

Estrada’s second son, Eder Giovanni Herrera, 24, was arrested the following day as a suspect. He is accused of stabbing his mother and brother to death, then fleeing to a friend’s house where he was arrested, according to a news release by the Brea Police Department.

Griffin would not comment on specific similarities between the homicides and the homeless killings, or how  Ocampo could be tied to the earlier deaths.

"We’re waiting on forensics,” he said.

Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman with the Orange County district attorney’s office, declined to comment on the case.

Ocampo, who was living about a mile from the home where the two bodies were found, is accused of killing four middle-aged homeless men.

On Dec. 20, James McGillivray, 53, was stabbed while he was sleeping outside a Placentia shopping center. Eight days later, Lloyd “Jim” Middaugh, 42, was found stabbed to death on the Santa Ana River trail. Paulus “Dutch” Smit, 57, was stabbed to death Dec. 30 outside the Yorba Linda library, which Ocampo was known to frequent.

John Barry, 64, was the fourth victim. He was stabbed outside an Anaheim Carl’s Jr., an incident that led to Ocampo’s capture.


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-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: Former Marine Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, in court. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times