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Fourth O.C. transient slain

The man is found dead behind an Anaheim fast-food spot. Police detain a suspect who was chased by bystanders.

January 14, 2012|By Mitchell Landsberg and Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
  • A woman and her child sit on the corner of La Palma Avenue and Imperial Highway in Anaheim after a homeless man was found slain behind a nearby fast-food restaurant. Police cordoned off the area and didn't allow people to leave during the search.
A woman and her child sit on the corner of La Palma Avenue and Imperial Highway… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

A homeless man was stabbed to death behind a busy fast-food restaurant in Anaheim late Friday, the fourth such killing in Orange County in the last month, and police quickly took a man into custody for questioning.

The suspect was being chased by two bystanders when police caught him on La Palma Avenue about a quarter-mile from the scene of the crime, according to Sgt. Bob Dunn, an Anaheim police spokesman.

Authorities were cautious about linking the latest killing to the previous three, but said the suspect bore a resemblance to a man being sought in those deaths, which have been called the work of a serial killer. Investigators said about 50 witnesses were being interviewed about Friday's crime, and Orange County sheriff's deputies were using bloodhounds to pore over the scene for clues.

Asked if the man detained Friday looks like the man filmed in a surveillance video around the time and place of the first killing, on Dec. 20 in Placentia, Deputy Anaheim Police Chief Craig Hunter said, "Yes, in a general sense, he does."

However, he said police were not assuming they had solved the serial killings. "We are certainly not letting down our guard," Hunter told reporters at an impromptu news conference near the crime scene.

According to the deputy chief, police received word at 8:17 p.m. of an assault in progress, and rushed to the scene behind a Carl's Jr. restaurant on La Palma and Imperial Highway. There, they found the body of a homeless man with stab wounds near a trash bin.

The victim was not identified by authorities, but Krista Schegetz, 42, of Anaheim said she knew him as John.

She said he was the only homeless man who frequented the Carl's Jr. restaurant.

Appearing shaken and teary-eyed, she said she had known him for six years and gave him care packages at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

"He couldn't be nicer," she said.

Police cordoned off a large area around the crime scene, which was in a busy commercial area of restaurants, a movie theater and a grocery store.

The series of killings has prompted a major search, with police from Anaheim, Placentia and Brea joining forces in the investigation and increasing patrols in areas known for attracting the homeless.

Detectives have enlisted the public's help, releasing grainy footage from a security camera showing a man police described as dressed in black and "lying in wait" about the time of the first

attack, in Placentia.

That attack, near a shopping center, claimed the life of James Patrick McGillivray, 53.

Investigators said they were looking for a white, four-door, late-model Toyota Corolla seen in the surveillance video.

So far, the primary lead is the footage from the security camera.

Police said the man in the footage appears to be about 18 to 25 years old, with a thin build and of average height.

On Dec. 28, Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found near a riverbed trail in Anaheim. Two days later, Paulus Smit, 57, was killed outside the Yorba Linda city library.

Police have been urging homeless people to seek shelter and have gone into homeless encampments throughout Orange County warning those living there that a killer is on the loose.

Authorities have also conducted unusual roadblocks.

On Tuesday, police stopped and interviewed drivers across the street from the Placentia shopping center where McGillivray was killed, looking for information in the case.

They conducted a similar roadblock Friday afternoon outside the Yorba Linda library — hours before and a few miles from the scene of Friday night's slaying.

mitchell.landsberg@latimes.com

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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