By AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — When his desire to kill at war was dashed by a tour of duty as a truck driver in Iraq, the young Marine returned home to wage combat in affluent Orange County.
Itzcoatl Ocampo said he felt he needed to kill to be a "real Marine" and he told police he set out to murder 16 people, carefully selecting victims from homeless men sleeping on the street and those he believed had wronged him.
While Ocampo's killing spree was stopped at six, the slender 30-year-old spilled the details of his grander plans and chilling accounts of his slayings to detectives, who recounted them to an Orange County grand jury that indicted Ocampo on six counts of murder last month.
Ocampo told investigators he researched human anatomy, looked at Penthouse magazine to "pump himself up," then stalked and stabbed each of his victims more than 30 times with a roughly seven-inch long military style blade hoping he'd sever their esophagus or strike their heart.
Ocampo could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering a high school friend's mother and brother and four homeless men in what prosecutors have dubbed a "thrill kill" spree that terrorized suburban Orange County in December and January. He is being held without bail after pleading not guilty.
New details in the case emerged this week, when a 179-page transcript of the grand jury proceedings was released.
Ocampo told investigators he planned to kill 16 people to follow in the footsteps of University of Texas tower killer and fellow former Marine Charles Whitman. He said he had no history of psychological problems and felt the need to kill after he was confined to driving a water truck and a dirt truck on a military base in Iraq.
"He entered the Marine Corps with the purpose of seeing combat and becoming a killer," Anaheim police detective Daron Wyatt testified. "He felt in order to become a real Marine, he needed to kill."
Ocampo's attorney Randall Longwith said the fact that his client confessed to the murders so soon after his arrest is unusual and highlights his mental state, as does a videotape of a session with Wyatt that shows Ocampo talking to himself during breaks in the questioning.
"He talks to Wyatt about the distinction between who he refers to as Corporal Ocampo and Izzy," Longwith said on Friday. "Corporal Ocampo is who he says does this bad stuff."
"I don't think anybody could listen and watch that interrogation and not come to the conclusion that this is a very disturbed mentally ill young man," Longwith said.
James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston, said detailed confessions by murder suspects are not uncommon.
"Sometimes they confess because of a certain element of pride in their ability to have committed these crimes and outsmart the police, at least for a period of time," said Fox, who has co-authored a book on serial killers. "A lot of them will take credit by almost boasting about what they did."
Ocampo, who was discharged honorably from the Marines in 2010, told investigators he had planned to kill his former high school friend Eder Herrera after the two had a falling out last year, and Herrera's family because they "seemed to have an attitude." One night in October, he recalled slipping into Herrera's house on a quiet cul-de-sac through the back sliding door, grabbing a butter knife from the kitchen and plunging it into the neck of Herrera's mother Raquel Pacheco, investigators said.
Ocampo then backed up Herrera's brother Juan Carlos against a wall and stabbed him. The whole time, Ocampo secretly hoped one of them would ask what he was doing there so he could answer, "I am here to kill you," Brea police detective Phil Rodriguez told the grand jury.
Once they were dead, Ocampo said he sprayed their hands with a bleach substance to rid them of traces of his DNA, Rodriguez said.
Ocampo then moved on to homeless victims because they were "available and vulnerable" and because he felt they were "a blight to the community," Wyatt said. Ocampo said he killed a homeless man in Placentia in an attack recorded by nearby surveillance cameras. The next day, he said he took his bloody clothes to a self-service laundry.