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Suspect in homeless slayings allegedly stalked victims

By Larry Welborn, The Orange County Register –

SANTA ANA, Calif. — There is one lucky homeless man out there who used to sleep on the bus bench at the northwest corner of Tustin and La Palma avenues in Anaheim, according to court documents obtained by The Orange County Register.

An Anaheim police detective testified before the Orange County grand jury in February that Iraq war veteran Itzcoatl Ocampo confessed that he was the serial killer responsible for the unprovoked stabbing deaths of four transients during a three-week killing spree in December and January.

Detective Daron Wyatt testified that Ocampo, 23, told him that he stalked each of his victims and hacked them to death with a 7-inch military-style knife because “they were available and vulnerable.”

But on Dec. 28, 2011, the homeless man Ocampo had been stalking near Tustin and La Palma avenues was nowhere to be found, according to the grand jury transcript.

“He had pre-selected a victim … in the city of Anaheim,” Wyatt told the grand jury. “He went to that location with the intent of murdering that victim. But when he arrived … that person was not there.”

Ocampo said he walked along the Santa Ana River bed looking for his target, then noticed a light coming from underneath the 91 freeway overpass, according to Wyatt’s testimony. Lloyd “Jimmy” Middaugh, 42, a longterm homeless man, was settling in for the night at his customary campsite along the Santa Ana River Trail.

Middaugh was not so lucky. He became the second victim of the homeless killer.

Ocampo confessed that he decided to kill Middaugh instead of his original target when he saw the 6-foot-4-inch, 300-pound man on his bedroll reading a book, according to the transcript.

Wyatt testified that Ocampo explained how he watched Middaugh from a position of concealment, waiting for him to go to sleep, while measuring him in his mind for the best moment to strike. Ocampo recalled that when he finally made his move, Middaugh stood up suddenly, according to grand jury transcript, and the attack was on.

Ocampo told Wyatt that Middaugh at one point managed to ask what he was doing, according to the transcript.

“And he replied that he was there to kill him,” Wyatt told the grand jury. “He said he then asked Mr. Middaugh why he was homeless. And Mr. Middaugh replied that he had been homeless all of his life.”

Middaugh’s bloody body was found the next morning at the campsite where he customarily spread his bedroll. He had been stabbed a total of 60 times, according to testimony from Dr. Tony Juguilon, the county’s chief forensic pathologist.

Ocampo’s description of the attack on Middaugh in the grand jury transcript was a small part of the never-before-revealed details about the killing spree that terrorized Orange County’s homeless population in December and January. Ocampo, of Yorba Linda, Calif., was indicted on six counts of murder plus special circumstances and faces a Sept. 10 trial date before Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno.

He is charged in the indictment with the hacking deaths of the four homeless men, as well as the stabbing deaths of Raquel Estrada, 53, and her oldest son Juan Carlos Herrera, 34, in their Yorba Linda home on Oct. 25, 2011. Those slayings were initially attributed to Eder Herrera, Estrada’s youngest son and a longtime friend of Ocampo. Charges were dismissed against Eder Herrera and he was released from custody after Ocampo confessed.

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