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Suspect in homeless case charged in Oct. 25 stabbing deaths

Itzcoatl Ocampo, a former Marine already accused of killing four homeless men, is charged in the stabbing deaths of his high school friend's mother and older brother in Yorba Linda.

February 07, 2012|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
  • Iztcoatl Ocampo, already accused of killing four homeless men, is seen in court in Santa Ana after being charged in the Oct. 25 stabbing deaths of his high school friend's mother and older brother.
Iztcoatl Ocampo, already accused of killing four homeless men, is seen… (Bruce Chambers / Pool Photo )

A former Marine already accused of murdering four homeless men was charged Monday in the October stabbing deaths of his high school friend's mother and older brother.

Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, was linked to the double homicide after a DNA match was made from clothing retrieved from Ocampo's home and DNA recovered at the crime scene. The bodies of Raquel Estrada, 53, and her son, Juan Herrera, 34, were found inside their home in Yorba Linda on Oct. 25. Like the four homeless men, both had been stabbed dozens of times.

Estrada's 24-year-old son, Eder Herrera, was charged in the killings and had pleaded not guilty. He was released Friday night from Orange County Jail after prosecutors said they no longer had sufficient evidence to keep him in custody.

Ocampo, who attended Esperanza High School with Eder Herrera, appeared in court Monday for a hearing that was postponed until March 16 at the request of his attorney, Randall Longwith. The arraignment now will address all six charges.

Ocampo, who had dark circles under his eyes, chatted with his lawyer and responded to a judge's questions. Toward the end of the short hearing, he gazed at his family in the second row of the Santa Ana courtroom. He has not visited with them since his arrest Jan. 13.

After the hearing, Ocampo's siblings were emotional. When asked by a reporter how it felt to see his older brother, Mixcoatl Ocampo cupped a hand over his mouth and began to cry.

Longwith said that one of his client's concerns is being able to see his family. The attorney also said he has not spoken to Ocampo in-depth regarding the new charges.

"These two cases do not fit," he said.

Speaking to reporters, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said Herrera has not been eliminated as a suspect in the case.

"We don't want to say he's not guilty," Rackauckas said. "His conduct was very suspicious."

After leaving jail, Herrera was subsequently taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was released, pending an immigration hearing.

Reached by phone Monday, Herrera declined to comment. At a relative's home where he had been staying, a young man answered the door, identifying himself only as Herrera's cousin. He said Herrera didn't want to talk about the case.

"He isn't living here anymore. He was afraid someone would come by looking for him," the cousin said. "He doesn't want to say anything about it."

Rackauckas said that evidence in the October case is being "looked at a little bit differently" with Ocampo as the alleged killer.

"The homeless people that he killed made easy victims, but he's clearly not limited to that," Rackauckas said.

Ocampo last month was charged in the spate of killings that began Dec. 20, prosecutors say. He was arrested after witnesses chased him from the scene of the fourth slaying, behind a fast-food restaurant. If convicted, Ocampo faces a minimum of life in prison without parole.

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

Los Angeles Times staff writer Phil Willon contributed to this report.

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