Ex-Camp Pendleton Marine found guilty of SoCal murder spree

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A former Camp Pendleton Marine was found guilty Wednesday for murdering five Southern California women.

A jury convicted Andrew Urdiales of five felony counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances sentencing enhancements for committing multiple murders and the personal use of a firearm in three murders.

Orange County District Attorney is pursuing the death penalty.

The women were murdered between 1986 and 1995 in areas including Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties.

It was in September 1988 when prosecutors said Urdiales shot and killed a 31-year-old prostitute named Mary Ann Wells. The killing took place in downtown San Diego, in a warehouse not far from the railroad tracks on Second Avenue near J Street.

He stabbed a 23-year-old Orange County college student to death in 1986.

“There are so many different cases and there’s some similarities, some variation. It’s just horrible,” said Kevin LaChapelle, a former police officer and criminal justice expert. “This guy is a monster. I wish they would have found this out a long time ago."

The murder cases in California were cold until 1996 when Urdiales was pulled over by police in Illinois. Inside his truck officers found a gun he was not permitted to carry.

A week before the gun was set to be destroyed, Chicago detectives discovered it had been used in three murders in the state. After Urdiales was caught, he allegedly opened up about the California murders and an attack in which a young woman escaped. Detectives said they were able to match Urdiales's DNA to evidence at the scene where Wells was killed.

“I remember many times hearing people say technology and a little bit of luck,” LaChapelle said. “Nowadays when you’re seeing evidence, from DNA evidence and just forensic technology nowadays, you’re seeing more and more cold cases being solved,” LaChapelle said. 

Defenders have told jurors Urdiales had a difficult upbringing and was born with brain damage.

“The one thing that I think, that I kind of see is it almost seems like he wants them to find out all of the things that he’s done, whether he’s proud or wants notoriety or whatever the case is. Nonetheless, it’s at least good for families to get closure,” LaChapelle said. 

Urdiales was stationed at Twentynine Palms after training at Camp Pendleton.