Illinois murder convict accused in 5 Calif deaths

AP News
Posted: Oct 04, 2011 7:32 PM
Illinois murder convict accused in 5 Calif deaths

A former U.S. Marine who was convicted of three murders in Illinois will be returned to California to be tried in five other murder cases, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Andrew Urdiales, 47, will arrive Thursday to be prosecuted in killings committed in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties from 1986 to 1995, the Orange County district attorney said.

Urdiales was convicted in 2002 in Illinois for killing two women and again in 2004 for killing a third.

He is accused of killing four of the Southern California women while stationed at various military facilities in the three-county region and of killing the fifth while on vacation in Palm Springs in 1995.

Urdiales was arrested in 1996 in Indiana when he was stopped by police while loitering in an area known for prostitution. Officers found a gun in his truck that was identified through ballistics analysis as the weapon used to kill three women in Illinois.

He was charged with the five Southern California murders in 1997.

Urdiales moved to Southern California in 1984 as a 19-year-old Marine.

On Jan. 18, 1986, prosecutors allege, Urdiales drove from Camp Pendleton to Saddleback College, where 23-year-old Robbin Brandley was stabbed to death as she walked to her car after volunteering as an usher at a jazz piano concert. She was stabbed 41 times with a serrated hunting knife in what authorities believe was a random attack.

More than two years later, on July 17, 1988, prosecutors allege, Urdiales picked up 29-year-old Julie McGhee, who was working as a prostitute in Indian Wells. She was shot in the head and her body was left in the desert.

Two months later, on Sept. 25, 1988, he solicited 31-year-old Maryann Wells in San Diego and shot her in the head after having sex with her in an abandoned industrial complex, according to the district attorney.

The following year, he picked up 20-year-old Tammie Erwin, who also was working as a prostitute, and shot her three times in Palm Springs, prosecutors allege.

The three women were shot with the same firearm, which Urdiales dismantled and threw away sometime after Erwin's death, according to authorities.

Urdiales returned to his native Illinois but came back to Palm Springs for vacation in 1995, four years after his military discharge.

Prosecutors say he picked up Denise Maney on March 11, 1995, in Palm Springs and stabbed her to death after having sex with her in the desert.

Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, did not know if Urdiales had been appointed a defense attorney in California. A first court appearance for Urdiales hasn't been scheduled yet, she said.

Attorney Steve Skelton, who represented Urdiales in at least one of the Illinois cases, didn't immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.

Defense attorneys at Urdiales' trials in Illinois said previously that he suffered from depression and anger stemming from childhood abuse and had mild bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Urdiales had been sentenced to death for three murders in Illinois, but two of those sentences were commuted to life without the possibility of parole in 2002 by then-Gov. George Ryan. When Illinois banned the death penalty this year, Urdiales' third death sentence also was commuted to life without the possibility of parole.

All five Southern California cases will be prosecuted in Orange County in a combined court proceeding.

Urdiales could be eligible for the death penalty in California if convicted, but Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has not yet made a determination on whether to pursue death.