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California

Suspect in Orange County knife rampage charged with four counts of murder

Stabbing suspect Zachary Castaneda
Photos of stabbing suspect Zachary Castaneda are displayed at a news conference at Garden Grove police headquarters.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A documented gang member suspected in Wednesday’s fatal Orange County stabbing and robbery rampage was formally charged Friday with killing four people and injuring two others in the attack, authorities said.

Zachary Castaneda, 33, was charged with four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, burglary and half a dozen other felonies in connection with the attacks in Santa Ana and Garden Grove, authorities said.

He is also charged with special enhancements for multiple murders and murder during a robbery, and for committing additional crimes while out on bail on three separate criminal cases, officials said.

Castaneda pleaded not guilty to all the charges. His arraignment was held in the county jail because he refused to be moved.

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Castaneda faces a minimum sentence of life without the possibility of parole if convicted on all charges. The enhancements of multiple murders and committing murder during a robbery make him eligible for the death penalty.

“I am immediately convening the Orange County district attorney’s Death Penalty Review Committee to determine whether to seek the death penalty in this case,” Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement.

Security camera video released Friday shows the assailant attempting to rob a female employee of a Garden Grove insurance agency before attacking her with what police described as “machete-style” knives in each hand.

The woman is seen trying to defend herself to get away from the attacker. After the attack, the hooded man takes items from a desk in the office before fleeing.

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“This female employee was very brave,” Garden Grove Police Lt. Carl Whitney said. “She fought as best as she could against this armed suspect and sustained multiple stab wounds.”

The woman was taken to a hospital for treatment and is expected to survive.

Detectives said it was unclear what prompted the deadly rampage, saying that Castaneda didn’t know the victims. The attacks started out as robberies and quickly turned deadly, police said. Officials say there is no indication the attacks were racially motivated.

The attacker began with a residential burglary in Garden Grove after 4 p.m. Wednesday that turned violent, police said. He continued with his assaults before he was taken into custody outside a 7-Eleven store in Santa Ana, police said.

Four men were killed and a 44-year-old man and 54-year-old woman — the employee at the insurance agency who was attacked — were injured. Family members have identified one of the individuals killed as 62-year-old Helmuth Hauprich. Hauprich and Castaneda both lived at the Casa de Portola apartment complex on Jentges Avenue in Garden Grove, police said.

KTLA reported that the man who was stabbed to death at a Subway restaurant in Santa Ana had been identified as Pascual Rioja Lorenzo, 39, of Garden Grove, and the man who was killed at the 7-Eleven was identified as Robert Ray Parker, 58, of Orange.

The slayings — which came days after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso — marked one of the most violent incidents in Orange County in recent years. The attack prompted Garden Grove officials to lower their flags to half-staff on Thursday.

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Times staff writer Colleen Shalby and City News Service contributed to this report.


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