Great police work stops serial killers, saves lives

The interrogation is chilling. But it was also strategic.

To see a KTLA-TV report on the Ocampo interrogation, click on the photo

To see a KTLA-TV report on the Ocampo interrogation, click on the photo

Sgt. Darren Wyatt knew the serial killer, a former Marine, would respond best to an authoritative tone.

“You know what’s right and you know what’s wrong?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” answered Itzcoatl Ocampo, hours after his January 2012 arrest for a homicidal spree that left six dead, including four homeless men. Police released a video recording of the interview last week.

“Do you think that what you’ve done is right or wrong?” Wyatt asked.

“Wrong, but it had to be done,” Ocampo explained. His disturbing rationalization: homeless people are a drag on the economy and must be eliminated.

He was arrested after Lt. Bob Dunn, the police department’s spokesman first on scene, set up a perimeter.

Ocampo killed himself in November, swallowing a lethal amount of Ajax while in his jail cell, police said.

Dunn and Wyatt aren’t the only Anaheim police officers who made news in April for tracking a serial killer.

Anaheim’s entire homicide unit – with assists from Santa Ana police detectives, FBI agents, parole and probation officers and Anaheim sex crimes Det. Laura Lomeli – identified, tracked and ultimately arrested two homeless sex offenders in April. The men are accused of killing at least five sex workers.

The investigation began after 21-year-old Jarrae Estepp’s body was found on a recycling conveyer belt.

Hunting for clues, Det. Bruce Linn crawled through the reeking dumpster looking for clues. More than 75 investigators searched through dumpsters, interviewed witnesses and worked around the clock. The detectives scoured information from registered sex offenders’ GPS ankle bracelets and cell phone data from the dead and missing women.

The effort led to two suspects, but it would be more than a week before they could make the arrests.

“It’s frustrating when you know who it is and you can’t do anything,” Julissa Trapp, lead detective on the case, told the Orange County Register.

In a bizarre coincidence, police arrested Franc Cano, 27, in the same parking lot where they had arrested Ocampo two years earlier. Also arrested was Steven Gordon, 45.

In both the prostitute and homeless serial killing cases, police showed tremendous tenacity, smarts and compassion.

In both cases, work remains. Police hope to identify the fifth victim in the prostitute killings and find the bodies of Kianna Jackson, 20, Josephine Vargas, 34, or Martha Anaya, 28.

But this much is certain, officials say: great police work prevented more killings.

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