Judge postpones arraignment for Iraq war vet accused of killing homeless men

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Itcoatl Ocampo is charged in four homeless men's deaths.

Story highlights

  • An arraignment hearing is scheduled for February 17
  • Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, is accused of fatally stabbing four homeless men
  • A defense attorney says he was not given enough time to meet with Ocampo
  • A prosecutor calls the former Marine a "serious, vicious killer"
A judge has postponed an arraignment hearing scheduled for a former Marine accused of fatally stabbing four homeless men in Southern California.
The hearing for Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, was postponed Wednesday until February 17 after Judge Donald F. Gaffney granted a defense motion asking for more time.
Ocampo, 23, remains jailed without bail. He is in a protective "suicide blanket," defense attorney Randall Longwith said.
Longwith told reporters he asked for the delay because he had not been given enough time to meet with his client. Authorities only allowed him to talk with Ocampo for 15 seconds Tuesday, he said.
"There was no basis for a plea at this point. I don't have enough information to even make a plea," he said.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters Wednesday that Ocampo was a "serious, vicious killer."
"He appears to be lucid, calm, intelligent, somebody who knows what he's doing. And his acts are very intentional," Rackauckas said.
Describing his brief conversation with Ocampo, Longwith painted a different picture.
"He looked at me. He answered when I asked him questions. It was a flat affect and a distant look in his eyes. ... He looked frightened in there, starry-eyed," Longwith said.
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The attorney said he did not know whether his client had been medicated. He said he hoped to have doctors examine Ocampo as soon as possible.
Ocampo faces four charges of first-degree murder. He was arrested Friday night after he allegedly stabbed a transient to death, Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn said.
Rackauckas said Tuesday that prosecutors had not decided whether they would seek the death penalty in the case.
Attached to the 1st Marine Logistics Group at Camp Pendleton, California, Ocampo was a corporal and a motor vehicle operator, serving in the Marines from July 2006 until July 2010, and was deployed to Iraq for six months in 2008, according to Marine service records. He received an Iraq campaign medal with one star, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a National Defense Service Medal, records showed.
Ocampo's family members watched Wednesday's hearing on a video monitor at the courthouse, but did not speak to reporters.
The arrest left those who know Ocampo confused.
The suspect's father, Refugio Ocampo, who is himself homeless, told the Orange County Register it was hard to believe his son could be involved in the killings.
"I saw him so many times giving the last money he had in his pocket ... to the homeless, to the people that (are) asking for some help. ... My son's always been a role model," Refugio Ocampo said in a video interview posted on the newspaper's website.
Norberto Martinez, a family friend who lives with the veteran's uncle, mother and two siblings in Yorba Linda, California, said family and friends were surprised to learn that the mild-mannered 23-year-old was a suspect in the slayings.
Martinez said he watched ballgames on television and went on walks with Ocampo, but avoided talking about the war because it upset the veteran.
"I wouldn't talk to him about Iraq," Martinez said. "Whenever he talked with me, he was normal."
The four slaying victims are James McGillivray, 50, who was killed December 20; Lloyd "Jimmy" Middaugh, 42, who died December 27; Paulus "Dutch" Smit, 57, killed on December 30; and John Berry, 64, who was stabbed to death January 13.