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DA says suspect killed homeless for the ‘thrill’

Iraq veteran faces charges in deaths during Calif. spree

ALEX GALLARDO/REUTERS

Visitors paid their respects at a makeshift memorial site for one of the homeless man slain Friday night in Anaheim, Calif.

SANTA ANA, Calif. - An Iraq war veteran charged with stabbing four homeless men to death in a weeks-long rampage in Southern California was a thrill seeker who took pleasure in killing his victims, prosecutors said yesterday.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters outside a jailhouse courtroom that the suspect, Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, appeared lucid, calm, and intelligent and showed no signs of mental illness.

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“He gets a thrill out of it,’’ Rackauckas said. “This is a serious, vicious killer who went out there intentionally going about killing people and terrorizing a whole area.’’

Ocampo made his first court appearance yesterday morning wearing an orange jail jumpsuit. The slender former Marine shifted his eyes back and forth as the judge discussed plans to delay his arraignment until Feb. 17 at the request of Ocampo’s attorney.

After the brief hearing, defense attorney Randall Longwith declined to comment on the allegations and said his main concern was gaining access to Ocampo, who was being held in a medical ward and denied visitors.

Longwith said he obtained a court order Tuesday to be able to see his client briefly and spoke with him through a food slot in his jail cell while Ocampo was wearing only underwear and wrapped in a blanket designed to prevent him from hurting himself.

“We’re just concerned that he hasn’t really had access to an attorney or to anyone at this point,’’ Longwith told reporters. “He seems very scared.’’

Ocampo was arrested Friday night when bystanders chased him down after a man was stabbed to death outside a fast-food restaurant in Anaheim, about 26 miles southeast of Los Angeles. He was caught with blood on his hands and face, authorities said.

Ocampo was charged Tuesday with four counts of murder and special allegations of multiple murders and lying in wait and use of a deadly weapon. Three victims were stabbed more than 40 times each with a single-edged blade at least 7 inches long, authorities said.

Ocampo will be given a psychological evaluation and is being held in isolation and monitored around the clock to prevent him from hurting himself or being harmed by other inmates, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the county sheriff’s department.

The killing spree began in December and prompted police to fan out across the county known as the home to Disneyland and multimillion-dollar beachfront homes to urge the homeless to sleep in groups or in one of two wintertime shelters.

Ocampo is accused of stalking each of his victims, then stabbing them repeatedly with a knife that could cut through bone. He selected his last victim, John Berry, 64, after he was featured in a Los Angeles Times story about the killing spree, prosecutors said.

Berry filed a police report the day before he died, saying he feared he was being stalked, but officers did not have a chance to follow up amid a flood of nearly 600 leads and tips.

“It is unfortunate that we didn’t get to him before the suspect did,’’ Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said.

Ocampo’s family said the suspect was a troubled man after he returned from Iraq in 2008.

Ocampo’s arrest was the latest violent crime involving a veteran.

This month, an Iraq War veteran fatally shot a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park and died later as he fled police across the mountain’s snow-covered slopes.

Like the men Ocampo is accused of preying on, his father is homeless.

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