The Orange County district attorney on Monday announced criminal charges against the suspects connected to the string of robberies and shootings at 7-Eleven stores across Southern California.
On Friday, 20-year-old Malik Patt and 44-year-old Jason Payne were arrested for the crime spree that took place on July 11. They have also been linked to similar crimes in other counties that took place on earlier dates.
During a Monday morning news conference, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced three felony murder counts against Patt.
"Malik Patt is a stone-cold serial killer," Spitzer said.
Two of the killings occurred in or near 7-Eleven stores in Santa Ana and Brea. The third murder charge stems from the killing of a homeless man in North Hills on July 9, Spitzer said.
The crime spree included incidents spread out over four counties. Spitzer says he believes the court cases will be consolidated in Orange County for prosecution in the interest of judicial efficiency.
Patt will also face two counts of attempted murder, three counts of robbery and one count of carjacking while armed, according to Spitzer. The charges against Patt will include special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder in the commission of a robbery. The case will also include various sentencing enhancements for personal use or discharge of a handgun.
Spitzer said that makes Patt eligible for the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.
Payne, a co-defendant in the case described as a neighbor of Patt, is now facing three counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery, stemming from heists in Santa Ana, La Habra and Brea, Spitzer said.
Payne has not at this point been charged with murder because he was outside the scenes of the killings and at this time prosecutors cannot establish he knew about or was involved in the fatalities that were connected to the robberies.
The district attorney said investigators were still looking into the relationship between the defendants, but they appear to be acquaintances who lived on the same street in Los Angeles.
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The two suspects are expected to be arraigned Tuesday in an Orange County courtroom.
Over the weekend, friends gathered to remember Matt Hirsch, the clerk who was shot and killed at the 7-Eleven store in Brea. Meanwhile, others are mourning 24-year-old Matthew Rule, who was killed in the parking lot of the store in Santa Ana during the five-hour string of holdups.
Police in Ontario, Upland, Riverside and La Habra have said they believe 7-Eleven robberies there also are linked.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said on Monday that his office has not yet been presented the cases that occurred in his office's jurisdiction, including robberies at four stores in the San Fernando Valley as well as the North Hills killing. The Los Angeles Police Department is continuing to investigate those crimes, he said.
"We applaud the hard work and dedication of our law enforcement partners throughout Southern California who arrested these dangerous individuals," Gascón said. "While the crimes which occurred in Los Angeles have not yet been presented to us, we fully expect that they will be presented to our Office."
"We look forward to working with the inter-county law enforcement community to ensure that justice is served for all those victimized in this string of brutal attacks," Gascón added.
City News Service contributed to this report.