Investigation Discovery’s ‘Murder by Numbers: Friend of the Devil’ chronicles the story of a Mexican-American presumed serial killer named Itzcoatl Ocampo who preyed on hapless, homeless men. Assumed to be responsible for at least 6 murders for which he was convicted, the Marine Corps veteran committed the homicides in California between 2011 and 2012. Do you want to know more about the victims as well as what happened to Itzcoatl? Let’s find out.
Who Were Itzcoatl Ocampo’s Victims?
James McGillivray was a 53-year-old with messy, thinning hair and a furrowed face that sported a graying, scrawly beard. He was a familiar face in the homeless community residing along the Santa Ana River in south Los Angeles. On December 20, 2011, James was seen loitering at a liquor store before settling down on the sidewalk in front of a strip mall in Placentia, California, for the night. The police would later see in one of the mall’s surveillance footage how James was brutally murdered by being stabbed around 52 times in the head and upper torso with a heavy-gauge Ka-Bar knife.
On December 27, 2011, a registered sex offender named Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was sleeping under the 91 freeway in Anaheim, California. He used to live in local shelters but failed to find one on that night. He was later found with 60 stab wounds, his head and neck hammered, and several broken ribs. When the Anaheim police medical examiner conducted an autopsy, they found that Lloyd had died from a deep laceration across his thyroid gland, a fractured temporal bone, and a deep penetrating wound to his brain.
57-year-old Paulus Cornelius Smit had battled severe drug addiction for a long time and was then homeless after authorities red-tagged a dilapidated house he lived in as inhabitable. He used to pass his days at the public library in Yorba Linda and travel around on his prized bicycle. On December 30, 2011, he found his bicycle missing and was waiting under the stairwell of the library for his daughter to pick him up when he was attacked. He had 56 stab wounds on his head, back, and neck, the knife severing his jugular vein and lacerating his heart.
John Berry was a veteran of the Vietnam war and an amateur bird-watcher. He was approached by an officer of the Anaheim police to explain the danger posed by an anonymous suspected serial killer that had been targeting the homeless community. The interaction between the 2 men was snapped by a Los Angeles Times photographer and John’s image was featured in an article in the first week of January 2012. Following the publication of the article, John called the police several times to complain that he was being followed.
His suspicion came true when he was attacked on January 13, 2012, at around 8:45 pm behind a fast food joint located in the middle of a parking lot in Anaheim. The hooded killer knocked him to the ground and continued to stab him until he died. However, this time there were several witnesses around, with them chasing the killer, and informing the police immediately.
Later on, the police analyzed blood found on the killer’s shoes to incriminate him in the murder of 53-year-old Raquel Estrada, and her son, Juan, 34, as well. They were killed on October 25, 2011, with Raquel being stabbed 30 times while Juan was stabbed around 60 times.
How Did Itzcoatl Ocampo Die?
Anaheim police surrounded the parking lot and Itzcoatl Ocampo was arrested within a few hundred meters of the crime scene as he tried to escape. He gave in to the officers without any incident and the police found the murder weapon, a bloody Ka-Bar knife with a 7-inch long blade, on him. The killer was identified as Itzcoatl Misael Ocampo, a native Mexican, who had shifted to Yorba Linda, California, along with his family. He had served in the Marine Corps for 4 years and was even deployed for a brief stint in Iraq in 2008.
Itzcoatl was arrested for the murder of John but charged with the murders of James, Lloyd, and Paulus also when an analysis of the knife determined it to be the same weapon used to carry out those homicides as well. On January 17, 2012, he was charged with all 4 counts of murder with the possibility of facing the death penalty. In February 2012, he was also charged with the murder of Raquel and Juan, after forensic evidence linked him to the double homicide case as well.
The killer’s family had claimed that combined with the PTSD he suffered from his Iraq tour, his family troubles, and the death of his close friend in Afghanistan, Itzcoatl was mentally unstable, suffering from alcohol abuse with indications of clinical delirium. The prosecution refused to believe so and underlined him as a vicious serial killer. He was scheduled to go on trial on January 17, 2014.
Itzcoatl was incarcerated in a prison cell at the Orange County Central Men’s Jail when he was found on November 27, 2013, at approximately 6:35 pm, to be vomiting and shaking. He was rushed to the WMC hospital in Santa Ana where it was discovered that he had ingested a lethal dose of Ajax cleaning detergent that he had stockpiled for weeks. He was pronounced dead on November 28, 2013.