A convicted murderer in Illinois was charged Wednesday with killing five Southern California women between 1986 and 1995 in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.
Andrew Urdiales, 45, was charged by the Orange County district attorney’s office with five felony counts of murder, with special circumstances of committing multiple murders and a sentencing enhancement of using a handgun in three of the killings. The special circumstances charges make him subject to the death penalty.
Urdiales is in prison in Illinois for killing two women in 2002 and a third in 2004.
A former Marine, Urdiales was stationed at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms from April 1984 through April 1991. He is accused of killing four women during that time: one in Orange County, two in Riverside County and one in San Diego County. He is accused of killing a fifth woman while on vacation in Palm Springs in 1995.
Orange County is handling the consolidated Southern California case.
Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Howard Gundy, the prosecutor in the case, said Urdiales “is one of these serial killers that belongs in the same kind of category that goes back to Jack the Ripper, and in modern days, guys like Randy Kraft, Ted Bundy.”
On Jan. 18, 1986, Robbin Brandley, 23, was volunteering as an usher at a jazz concert at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. Urdiales is accused of attacking her as she left the event, stabbing her 41 times in the back, neck, chest and hands with a hunting knife.
More than two years later, on July 17, 1988, prosecutors said, Urdiales allegedly picked up Julie McGhee, a 29-year-old prostitute, in the Indian Wells area, drove her to a remote location for sex, then killed her with a shot to the head.
Urdiales is accused of picking up Maryann Wells, 31, a prostitute in San Diego, on Sept. 25, 1988, paying her for sex, then shooting her once in the head. Prosecutors said he took back the $40 he paid her but left a used condom with his and her DNA on it.
On April 16, 1989, Urdiales allegedly picked up Tammie Erwin, a 20-year-old prostitute, and drove her to a remote area in Palm Springs, had sex with her, then shot her three times.
The final California death occurred in 1995, four years after Urdiales was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps and returned home to Illinois. Prosecutors say that while he was on vacation in Palm Springs, Urdiales picked up Denise Maney, a 32-year-old prostitute, drove to a remote spot, tied her hands behind her back and raped her. Maney was stabbed to death.
Urdiales was arrested in November 1996 in Hammond, Ind., after police saw him loitering in an area known for prostitution. Officers searched his car and found a handgun he was not permitted to carry.
Ballistics testing showed that the gun was the same one used to kill three women in Illinois -- all prostitutes whose bodies were dumped in a lake or river.
Urdiales was sentenced to death in 2002 for two of the murders, but that was commuted to life without possibility of parole by then-Gov. George Ryan. In 2004, he was sentenced to death in the third killing; he is appealing that sentence.
Urdiales will be extradited to face charges in the deaths of the five Southern California women after the evidentiary portion of his Illinois appeal of the death sentence is finished.