Crime & Justice

Iraq War vet Ocampo arraigned for string of Orange County murders

This photo provided by the Anaheim Police Department shows Itzcoatl Ocampo. Investigators are
This photo provided by the Anaheim Police Department shows Itzcoatl Ocampo. Investigators are "extremely confident" that Ocampo is responsible for all four recent killings of homeless men in Orange County.
Anaheim Police/AP

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An Iraq War vet has pleaded “not guilty” to a series of six stabbing murders in Orange County.

Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, made his plea in a Santa Ana courtroom this morning.

Prosecutors say Ocampo brutally stabbed to death four homeless men in December and January. They also accuse him of the murders of a woman and her son in their Yorba Linda home in October.

Ocampo’s attorney, Randall Longwith, says he is looking into the Iraq War vet’s mental health.

“His health, his mind is so fractured that I think it’s hard for him to understand not only the gravity, but even where he is right now,” Longwith said after the arraignment.

Ocampo spent nearly eight months in Iraq, as a Marine. He reportedly spent part of that time dealing with dead and dismembered bodies of Iraqis and of fellow service members.

Longwith says Ocampo suffered mental issues after coming home. Longwith says Ocampo is difficult to communicate with right now.

“The Marines use something called ‘the thousand yard stare.’ That’s as close of a description as I can get as it relates to talking with him,” Longwith says. “It’s this very, very, very distant recognition as to what we’re talking about, as well as physically. He looks like he’s some other place.”

But the family of one of the murdered homeless men, Lloyd Middaugh, who was killed along the Santa Ana River Trail by the 91 Freeway in Anaheim, says they don’t buy mental illness as an excuse for murder. Brad Olsen, Middaugh’s brother-in-law, calls it bologna.

“That’s just a cop out. It’s just a way... to go easy on him and stuff. And he sure in the heck didn’t go easy on my brother-in-law, you know. He didn’t give him a chance. He didn’t give him a choice or anything. He just, he just murdered him,” Olsen says. “And being insane? Yeah, we all think he’s insane. I mean, to do something that to somebody? Yeah, you are insane.”

Olsen says he and his family would like to see Ocampo prosecuted and spend the rest of his life in prison.

“My son was doing nothing but sleeping and he died because he had to sleep out there,” says Marie Middaugh, the mother of murder victim Lloyd Middaugh. “And to me, this is just — it’s evil, the highest degree of being evil.”

Ocampo is due back in court for a pre-trial hearing March 9.