Police and a community group have warned homeless people in California not to sleep alone on the streets where a serial killer is believed to be prowling for targets, having already murdered three.
The Orange County Rescue Mission has been handing out flashlights and whistles to the homeless in an effort to help them protect themselves, said Jim Palmer, the group’s president.
Officials are encouraging homeless people to sleep in groups, or better, go to a shelter, despite warnings there simply aren’t enough beds to go around, with hostels facing daily waiting lists for space to bunk down.
Darryl Bossier, 49, says he sleeps outside the Orange County administration building in central Santa Ana – one of a dozen transients who use the benches that zig-zag across the courtyard as a place to rest each night.
“I’m a watchdog. I don’t want them to get anybody,” Mr Bossier said of the killer, adding he slept only about four hours a night. “Who wants to wake up next to somebody dead?”
Authorities have asked for the public’s help in finding the killer, as a special task force searches for the suspect with officers from Placentia, Anaheim and Brea, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.
An image of a suspect from a video surveillance camera in the area where the first victim was killed shows what appears to be a thin man dressed in a dark hoodie or sweater who appears to be lying in wait for his victim.
The first victim, 53-year-old James McGillivray, was found dead on December 21 near a Placentia shopping mall. The second victim, 42-year-old Lloyd Middaugh, was found on a riverbed trail in Anaheim a week later.
Paulus Smit, 57, the third victim, was discovered with fatal stab wounds outside a Yorba Linda library, where a photo of him stood at a small candlelit memorial this week.
Investigators say a white, four-door Toyota could also be involved in the crimes, as shown in a surveillance video taken on December 20 at the scene of the first killing.