More charges ahead for man held in homeless deaths
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors said Friday they plan to file two more murder charges against an ex-Marine accused of killing four homeless men in Southern California, this time in the stabbings deaths of a mother and son who lived near him.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced the pending charges against Itzcoatl Ocampo in the stabbing deaths of Raquel Estrada and her son Juan Herrera.
Charges were dropped earlier Friday against Estrada's son Eder Herrera, 24, who was arrested shortly after the October killings in Yorba Linda.
"We no longer have sufficient evidence to hold Mr. Herrera in custody," Rackauckas said at a news conference Friday, according to City News Service.
"Since the filing of the charges against Herrera and Ocampo, there has been a significant amount of new evidence discovered in the case," he said.
The Orange County Register reported earlier this week that detectives found similarities in the cases of the Yorba Linda deaths and the stabbings of four homeless men in December and January.
On Thursday, authorities said they had "significant evidence" linking Ocampo to the Yorba Linda killings.
Estrada and Juan Herrera were killed in their Yorba Linda home, less than two miles from Ocampo's residence.
Estrada's son Eder Herrera was arrested the day after the killings as he drove from a friend's house.
Rackauckas said Ocampo and Herrera were friends from high school. He said DNA collected at Ocampo's home linked him to the Yorba Linda crime scene.
"At this point we have not conclusively eliminated Mr. Herrera as a suspect in the case. We will continue to investigate the case," Rackauckas said.
Ocampo is charged with stabbing to death four homeless men in a killing spree that terrorized Orange County in December and January.
The victims, James Patrick McGillivray, 53, was stabbed Dec. 20 near a shopping center in Placentia; Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found Dec. 28 near a riverbed trail in Anaheim; Paulus Smit, 57, was stabbed to death outside a Yorba Linda library on Dec. 30; and John Berry, 64, was stabbed to death on Jan. 13, the day Ocampo was arrested.
Each of the four men was stabbed more than 40 times with a weapon believed to be a 7-inch, fixed-blade, military-type knife, authorities said.
Before Ocampo's arrest, police fanned out across the county better known as the home to Disneyland and multimillion-dollar beachfront homes to urge the homeless to be careful and seek shelter indoors.
Ocampo has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, plus the special circumstances of multiple victims and murder by lying-in-wait.