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California homeless serial killer suspect to be tried in September

Former U.S. Marine Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, an Iraq war veteran, speaks with his defense attorney Randall Longwith during his arraignment on charges of four counts of first degree murder in Santa Ana, California February 6, 2012. The arraignment is postponed until March 16. REUTERS/Bruce Chambers/Pool

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An Iraq war veteran accused in the serial killings of four Orange County homeless men and the stabbing deaths of a high school friend’s mother and brother will stand trial in September, a judge ordered Friday.

Former U.S. Marine Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, has pleaded not guilty to the six counts of first degree murder, four of them stemming from the stabbing deaths of transients in December and January that rattled Orange County residents.

Ocampo is currently being monitored around the clock for his own safety after being put in a “safety gown” for three days earlier this week to prevent him from hurting himself, Orange County sheriff spokesman Jim Amormino said.

Ocampo was arrested in January after he was chased down by bystanders following the stabbing murder of Jon Berry.

Prosecutors say Ocampo targeted Berry after the 64-year-old transient appeared in a Los Angeles Times article about the homeless murders case.

Also slain in the string of murders of transients in December and January were James McGillivray, 53, Lloyd “Jimmy” Middaugh, 42, and Paulus “Dutch” Smit, 57.

Ocampo’s attorney, Randall Longwith, has said that he is considering mounting an insanity defense on behalf of his client, possibly linked to his military service in Iraq.

Ocampo served in the Marines from July 2006 to July 2010, and was deployed to Iraq in 2008, according to the Marines.

Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Johnston