Jury to decide fate of former Camp Pendleton Marine accused of murder spree

SAN DIEGO -- A jury in Orange County is determining the fate of a former Camp Pendleton Marine accused of murdering five women in California.

Andrew Urdiales, who was once also stationed at Twentynine Palms, allegedly killed the women in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties between 1986 and 1995.

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 is also accused of stabbing 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. 

The jury began deliberations around 11 a.m. Monday. If found guilty, Urdiales could face the death penalty.