Orange County is facing a "serious, dangerous serial killer," said Anaheim police Chief John Welter on Wednesday as three homeless men were found brutally stabbed to death.
The suspect, believed to be a male in a dark hooded sweatshirt, was seen on a Dec. 21 surveillance video approaching a sleeping homeless man.
While no connection currently exists between the three victims, authorities believe the killings in Placentia, Anaheim and Yorba Linda were likely committed by the same person.
“Two were stabbed in the evening hours before midnight and one was stabbed in the late afternoon, probably still at daylight,” said Welter.
A bulletin posted at homeless shelters stating that all three victims were stabbed to death as they slept alone was "not wholly correct," said Anaheim Sgt. Bob Dunn, but he declined to release additional details. What exactly the men were doing as they were attacked is still being investigated, reports the OC Register.
The time-stamped surveillance video also showed two cars parked in a lot near the location of the killing. One vehicle was identified, and the owner was interviewed. The other — a white, 2000-2003 Toyota Corolla — has not been located, and it is unknown if police believe there is a connection to the attack.
Officials in Placentia believed the killer "laid in wait" before approaching the victim — meanwhile, video suggests the white Corolla left more than an hour before the attack.
Investigators from the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the FBI have joined a special police task force that includes officers from Placentia, Anaheim and Brea. They’re asking for the public’s help in relaying any tips or leads.
No information has been released about the weapon(s) involved in the attacks.
Jim Palmer leads the Orange County Rescue Mission based in Tustin. He says at least two shelters are offering beds to homeless men — one in Fullerton and the other in Santa Ana.
“They’re specifically set up for single adults," Palmer said. "Families are diverted through another program into more of a motel or apartment kind of setting, so usually there’s some single beds available.”
Palmer says more help is needed. He’s urging more cities in Orange County to provide refuge as the investigation continues.
“Either land or buildings that can be used as shelter," Palmer said, "so that we can even expand the number of beds throughout the county to accommodate the needs of the homeless that are on the streets.”