Raquel Estrada, 53, and her son Juan Herrera, 34, were stabbed to death inside their home on Oct. 25, 2011. Estrada's 24-year-old son, Eder Herrera, was arrested and charged with killing his mother and brother.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas held a Friday evening news conference to announce that charges against Eder Herrera were dropped at 4:45 p.m. Friday due to new evidence in the case. Rackauckas said there was no longer sufficient evidence to hold Herrera, but said he had not been conclusively eliminated from the case.
Rackauckas said special-circumstances charges would be filed against 23-year-old Yorba Linda resident Itzcoatl Ocampo in the Herrera case on Monday. Ocampo now faces six murder charges, including the fatal stabbings of four homeless men in Orange County in December and January.
Ocampo will be charged with six felony counts of murder with special circumstances for multiple murders and lying in wait and sentencing enhancements for personal use of a deadly weapon, a knife, during the commission of a crime, according to the OCDA. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. The special circumstances in this case make Ocampo eligible for the death penalty, the OCDA said.
Rackauckas said DNA evidence was found at Ocampo's home that connected to the Herrera crime scene. The high number of stab wounds in the Herrera murders also matched Ocampo's alleged murders of the homeless men.
Raquel Estrada was stabbed more than 30 times; Juan Herrera was stabbed more than 60 times. The four homeless men believed to have been murdered by Ocampo also sustained high numbers of stab wounds.
The Herrera murders occurred two months before the four homeless men were murdered.
Rackauckas said Ocampo had a friendship with one of the Herrera brothers since high school. Ocampo, a former Marine, lived a mile away from the family. Ocampo's proximity and the similarity of all the murders are key factors in the investigation.
Eder Herrera was originally arrested in the case because a witness saw someone he believed to be him at the crime scene. Surveillance video from the night of the Herrera murders showed a man wearing similar shoes that Eder had worn.
Authorities said during a Thursday news conference that they believe Itzcoatl Ocampo was involved in the Herrera murders but did not elaborate until Friday.
Ocampo is being held without bail and will be arraigned on the new charges Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, at 9 a.m. in Central Jail, Santa Ana, according to the OCDA's Office.