A 24-year-old man previously accused of murdering his mother and brother in Southern California has been released after a brief stay in the custody of federal immigration officials.
Eder Herrera was placed briefly into the custody of immigration authorities Friday night after he was released from jail when prosecutors dropped charges against him and said they will instead charge a suspected serial killer with the murders, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Saturday.
Herrera was released on his own recognizance and will be referred to an immigration judge for a hearing on whether he should be allowed to remain in the country. He told immigration officials he originally entered the country illegally but has no criminal record aside from the dismissed charges, ICE said in a statement.
Herrera had been charged with stabbing to death his mother Raquel Estrada and brother Juan Herrera in the family's rented home in Yorba Linda in October. But authorities said Friday they had uncovered evidence linking Itzcoatl Ocampo, a suspected serial killer and Herrera's high school friend, to the murders.
Ocampo, a 23-year-old former Marine, is already charged with stabbing to death four homeless men in a killing spree that terrorized Orange County in December and January. He is expected to be arraigned on the new charges Monday.
"We no longer have sufficient evidence to hold Mr. Herrera in custody," Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in prepared remarks on Friday.
Rackauckas said DNA collected at Ocampo's home linked him to the Yorba Linda crime scene.
"At this point we have not conclusively eliminated Mr. Herrera as a suspect in the case. We will continue to investigate the case," Rackauckas said.
Ocampo was arrested last month and charged with the string of homeless murders, which had prompted police to fan out across the county better known as the home to Disneyland and multimillion-dollar beachfront homes to urge people to seek shelter indoors.
James Patrick McGillivray, 53, was stabbed Dec. 20 near a shopping center in Placentia; Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found Dec. 28 near a riverbed trail in Anaheim; Paulus Smit, 57, was stabbed to death outside a Yorba Linda library on Dec. 30; and John Berry, 64, was stabbed to death on Jan. 13, the day Ocampo was arrested.
Each of the four men was stabbed more than 40 times with a weapon believed to be a 7-inch, fixed-blade, military-type knife, authorities said.
Ocampo has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, plus the special circumstances of multiple victims and murder by lying-in-wait.