Investigators are “extremely confident” a man in their custody is responsible for four recent killings of homeless men, Anaheim City police chief John Welter said, bringing an apparent end to a month of worry and fear among the homeless and those who help care for them in the famously sunny and well-to-do suburbs of Los Angeles.
Investigators said on Saturday that they had tied the killings to Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, who was detained on Friday night after a fourth homeless man was found slain in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, Welter said.
Witnesses and bystanders at the crime scene chased Ocampo on foot, and he was captured by a police officer who was part of a perimeter set up in response to dozens of emergency calls and other reports.
Three other homeless men have been found stabbed to death in north Orange County since the middle of last month, and a task force had been looking for the single suspect they believed was responsible for all three.
“We are extremely confident that we have the man that is responsible for the murders of all four homeless men in Orange County,” Welter said. “We plan to request from the district attorney that he be charged with four counts of murder.”
Ocampo is being held without bail and appear in court this week, Welter said.
Also on Saturday, mourners wept at the scene of death of the latest stabbing victim, who was described by friends as a Vietnam War veteran in his 60s named John. They left flowers and signs, one of which read “We love you, John.” The victim was found between 8pm and 9pm on Friday in the parking lot of a Carl’s Jr that is surrounded by banks and other businesses at a wide, busy intersection, police said.
A candlelight vigil for the man and the other victims was planned for Saturday evening.
Marilyn Holland, an Anaheim resident who befriended the victim and regularly brought him oatmeal raisin cookies, said he was -uncharacteristically nervous since police warned him to stay vigilant in the days after the killings began.
“He told me he thought he was being followed,” Holland said.
Several witnesses reported an assault in progress and officers arrived to find the homeless man dead near a trash bin in the restaurant parking lot. Witnesses followed a man who ran from the lot and led police to him, police sergeant Bob Dunn said.
Police set up a large containment area at the crime scene in a search for the killer and scoured nearby neighborhoods, including a mobile home park, Dunn said.
A police bloodhound traced the scent from Ocampo’s belongings back to the scene where the attack occurred, authorities said.