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Suspect Confesses to Killing College Student, 7 Others

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A former Camp Pendleton Marine arrested in Chicago this week confessed to killing as many as eight women in Southern California and Illinois, including an Orange County college student whose death had remained a mystery for 11 years, authorities said Friday.

Andrew Urdiales, 32, who served at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms from 1984 to 1991, admitted to the slayings after being arrested Wednesday and charged with the slayings of two Chicago area prostitutes, police there said. During questioning, Urdiales also told authorities he is responsible for as many as six other killings, including the January 1986 stabbing of 23-year-old Robbin Brandley in a dimly lit parking lot at Saddleback Valley College in Mission Viejo, police said.

Urdiales is suspected of killing three prostitutes in the Chicago area and four women in Palm Springs, two of whom were prostitutes, police there said. He was expected to be transferred Friday night to Cook County Jail and face arraignment Monday on two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

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“He is the killer,” said Chicago Police Cmdr. Nathan Gibson. “He would kill them after having sex with them.”

Urdiales is charged with two of the Illinois slayings--the murders of Laura Uylaki last July and Lynn Huber in August. Both victims were found nude floating in Wolf Lake and were believed to be prostitutes who worked in Hammond, near Gary, Ind., police said.

Law enforcement authorities in Palm Springs confirmed Friday that they are looking at Urdiales as a potential suspect in the April 1989 slaying of Tammy Lynn Erwin, 18, a transient whose bullet-riddled body was found in a vacant lot, and the March 1995 killing of Denise Maney, 32, of Cathedral City.

During police interviews in Chicago, the former Marine radio operator shocked veteran investigators with his calm and calculated descriptions of the killings.

“This was the worst interview I’ve ever had,” said Palm Springs Police Det. John Booth, who has been on the force 19 years. “It was scary. . . . His demeanor was enough to make goose bumps go up and down your back.”

Booth, who questioned Urdiales for two hours Friday, said the suspect chillingly described the killings of the Palm Springs victims. “He just sat there and said things like, ‘Then, I blew her head off’ like it was no big deal.”

Booth said Urdiales confessed to the killing because “his life was ruined and he said he wanted to come clean.”

Apparently, Booth said Urdiales is also wanted in connection with the attempted murder of a 19-year-old Palm Springs area high school student several years ago. According to Booth, Urdiales gave the student a ride home, but then kidnapped her, raped her, and threw her into the trunk of his car--apparently to kill her in a secluded spot. But the student apparently broke out of the trunk and escaped, Booth said.

Late Friday, Palm Springs police found a gun and knife in a storage locker registered in Urdiales’ name in Twentynine Palms, said Det. Tony Castillo.

About 4:30 p.m. Friday, Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates informed Brandley’s parents that the man suspected of killing their daughter had been arrested.

“It was an answer to our prayers,” said Brandley’s mother, Genelle Reilley of Laguna Beach, who with her husband, Jack, had refused to give up hope that a suspect would be found.

For years, the couple spent tens of thousands of dollars on private detectives, even psychics. They pushed hard for state legislation, which passed in 1990, requiring more lighting on college campuses. “When they told us about the arrest, I just started to cry,” Genelle Reilley said.

Capt. Robert Kemmis, head of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s homicide division, said at a news conference that authorities are “very confident that we should focus our energies on this man.”

Authorities were tight-lipped about evidence against the suspect, who is accused of luring prostitutes in the Chicago area into his truck and then provoking a fight.

However, Orange County authorities believe that Brandley’s killing was a random act; there is no evidence that sex or robbery was a motive.

Urdiales first came to the attention of authorities last year when he was arrested in Chicago on a weapons violation involving a .38-caliber gun. He was subsequently released.

On Wednesday, he was arrested again in Hammond, allegedly after coaxing a prostitute into his car. After a scuffle, he allegedly handcuffed the woman, who began screaming, alerting a nearby Hammond police officer.

Police then revisited the earlier case and linked Urdiales to the killings through the .38-caliber gun, authorities said.

“That weapon proved to be the murder weapon with the three young ladies found in Wolf Lake,” one law enforcement official said.

Contributing to this report were Times staff writers Stephen Braun in Chicago, Anna Cekola in Costa Mesa, Tina Nguyen in Laguna Beach, Robert J. Lopez in Los Angeles and correspondent Diana Marcum in Palm Springs. The Associated Press also contributed to this story.


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