A Clockwork Orange County

January 09, 2012

Multiple Pages
A Clockwork Orange County

If all you ever did was watch TV—which is all that many Americans ever do—you’d think that Orange County, CA is so squeaky-clean, it actually squeaks. It’s where Mickey Mouse lives. It’s where real housewives have fake problems. Where every day’s a perfect day. Where life is smoother than a waxed surfboard, where the dull blue sky, the dull beige buildings, and the dull grey air all meld into a sun-scorched, germ-free, Beach Boys coma.

You wouldn’t think it’s the sort of place where a serial killer is randomly stabbing homeless men to death.

From December 20-30, three middle-aged “transient” males had the life knifed out of them by what Anaheim police chief John Welter calls “a serious, dangerous serial killer operating in Orange County.” All three victims were alone when murdered, and all were originally thought to have been sleeping when they were attacked.

Described as “a loner with a love for malt liquor,” 53-year-old James Patrick McGillivray had received over a dozen citations for public drunkenness since 2002 and also served stints for burglary convictions in 2006 and 2008. For months he had established what was termed “a quiet presence” on a strip-mall sidewalk near Charity’s Closet Thrift Shop in Placentia, CA. He toted around a backpack festooned with children’s cartoon characters Phineas and Ferb and wore a “Vietnam Veteran” cap although he was too young to have served. A thrift-shop volunteer called him “a nice guy,” and although McGillivray didn’t seem to do much besides suck up public spaces while getting plastered, the store’s owner remarked that “He was happy doing what he was doing.”

“You wouldn’t think it’s the sort of place where a serial killer is randomly stabbing homeless men to death.”

McGillivray was fatally stabbed around 8:15 PM on December 20. His body wasn’t discovered until the next morning, but surveillance cameras revealed a grainy photo of what is thought to be his killer—a youngish, shortish man wearing a black hoodie—approaching him on the sidewalk before murdering him. Police say they believe the killer had been “lying in wait” for up to an hour before attacking.

A small shrine has now been erected at the murder scene including a tag that reads, “Jim we know you’re at peace with mom.”

A week later and only three miles away, police found the 6’4”, 300-pound hulking carcass of Lloyd Middaugh, 42, on a riverbed bike trail in Anaheim. Middaugh had been living under a nearby bridge for roughly six months after being ejected from a halfway house for sex offenders—he had performed a “lewd and lascivious” act on a child under 14. Still, his mother recalled him as a “gentle giant” and a friend said, “He was just a decent, big guy. A big, goofy guy.” The decent, big, goofy gentle giant apparently spent most of his waking hours bumming cigarettes. A few nights before he died, friends said he had two packs of smokes and $12 in his pocket—they said he’d never seemed happier.

Paulus Cornelius “Dutch” Smit, 57, was described as “kind” and “sunny,” an “honest and sincere soul” who “seemed excited to be alive.” His bloody corpse was found at the bottom of a library stairwell in Yorba Linda, CA, on December 30. He reportedly had visited the library “almost daily” for a year, which a newspaper account noted was “a rarity for the homeless in the area.” Smit had spent time in Juvenile Hall during his teens for theft. Smit’s daughter Julia recalls that after her mother left him, he preferred living full-time on the streets to working a full-time job and found more “nobility” in referring to himself as a “wanderer” rather than a transient. Julia said it wasn’t until her teens that she accepted her father was what many people would call a bum: “Then I’d see him digging through Dumpsters and say, ‘That’s my father! That’s Papa!’” As with McGillivray, a small candlelit memorial has been constructed at Smit’s murder scene.

Beyond the murky surveillance photo, police aren’t revealing much about the suspect. He could merely be a predatory homeless person capitalizing on his compadres’ vulnerability. He could be some hellbent psychopathic Travis Bickle PTSD basket case raining down holy vengeance on the “scum.” He could be a thrill killer poaching easy prey—it’s even easier than killing prostitutes, and the victims probably get less sympathy than hookers. Or it could actually be three different killers going through the same gang-initiation ritual.

Since this is California, there was also speculation that the killer might be a lone-wolf Satanist offering up crippled street goats as sacrifice. When Vaughn Orrin Greenwood, LA’s notorious “Skid Row Slasher,” dispatched with an estimated eleven hapless winos in the 1960s and 1970s, he allegedly tossed in a few occultic twists such as drinking his victims’ blood and sprinkling salt around their heads. And Bobby Joe Maxwell, AKA “The Skid Row Stabber,” was convicted of two—and suspected of up to ten—murders of LA hobos in the late 1970s, although a judge recently ordered him a new trial. Maxwell’s original prosecutor depicted him as a Satanist who offered up dead souls for his dark master’s pleasure.

With all those surfers and serial killers and debutantes and paranoid schizophrenics and real-estate developers and Dumpster-divers, it’s scary out there. So what’s a worried Orange County vagabond to do?

A website for Orange County’s homeless—or at least those with computers—is giving updates on the serial-killer situation. Local charities have been handing out hundreds of emergency kits to the area’s vagrants, enabling them to whistle loudly and to frantically wave around a tiny flashlight should someone emerge from the shadows and suddenly begin stabbing them. Frightened out of whatever wits they have left, many of the OC’s homeless have crowded into public shelters over the past week.

But others are vowing to stay on the streets and fight back. A six-foot-two ex-boxer named Cary Singletary has his whistle and his flashlight ready should something go terribly wrong on the Santa Ana streets he calls home. He says he sleeps on public buses and now spends his waking hours seeking to avenge “my people” in their quest to “get the sick-minded coward” who’s been picking them off one-by-one. “If that serial killer wants to come at us, he’ll have his hands full,” Singletary told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve got some soldiers out here. I’m just one of them. If that whistle goes off, you’ll have a whole army of homeless on him.”

In the opening scenes of the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, sociopathic young gang leader Alex and his band of droogies mercilessly stomp the feathers out of a belching old alcoholic bum singing to himself in a dark underpass. Much later in the film after Alex undergoes a chemical “rehabilitation,” the crusty old derelict recognizes him in the daylight and leads his own pack of stinking grubby urchins in a revenge attack. In one maniacal group lunge, they kick and poke and punch and grab and drool on this cowardly punk who needed a whole gang to beat up an old man. Before the mob of angry bums managed to finish off Alex, a pair of cops rescued him. (Coincidentally, the newly employed Bobbies were his former crime partners, who proceeded to club him unconscious themselves.)

This time around, the predator may bite off more angry bums than he can chew. That “whole army of homeless” could be a more efficient killing machine than a solo punk with a knife.

If it wasn’t all so sordid, it might even seem heroic.

UPDATE: A 23-year-old man named Itzcoatl Ocampo has been arrested and is being held in connection with what are now four murders.


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