SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former Marine convicted of killing three prostitutes in Illinois made his first appearance in an Orange County courtroom Friday, beginning the process of facing charges of killing five women in Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties between 1986 and 1995.
The arraignment for Andrew Urdiales, 47, was rescheduled for Dec. 1. He was taken from an Illinois prison Monday by federal marshals and booked Thursday at the Orange County Jail, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office, which will handle the prosecution for all of the killings.
Urdiales is charged with five counts of murder, along with special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and personal use of a handgun. He faces a potential death sentence.
Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy said his office likely will make a decision on whether to pursue the ultimate punishment for Urdiales before his arraignment.
If prosecutors pursue the death penalty then it's likely jurors will hear testimony from Jennifer Asbenson, a woman Urdiales allegedly terrorized for hours in 1992 in Palm Springs when she was 19 years old, Gundy said. Asbenson managed to get away from Urdiales, who had given her a ride to work and then picked her up when she got off, Gundy said.
Asbenson had just missed the bus to work and Urdiales, who was passing by, picked her up in his car and dropped her off at her job, Gundy said. Asbenson, who worked an overnight shift, was approached by Urdiales as she left work and accepted his invitation to have coffee.
Instead, she soon found herself bound in his trunk, the prosecutor said.
Somehow she managed to get the trunk open and was rescued by two Marines passing by from a nearby base, Gundy said. Urdiales won't face charges for that attack, but if there's a penalty phase it will be used against him, Gundy said.
Urdiales was not caught, though, until November 1996 in Hammond, Ind., when police saw him in his truck, parked in an area known for prostitution. Inside his vehicle, officers found a gun, which he was not permitted to carry, and he was convicted of misdemeanor unauthorized possession of a handgun, Gundy said.
Urdiales, who worked as a security guard at the time, did not arouse suspicion then, and authorities were about to destroy the weapon until Chicago detectives sought it for ballistics tests, Gundy said.
Chicago investigators suspected Urdiales had been killing prostitutes, because one of the prostitutes they interviewed in Chicago told them that Urdiales was a weird customer who had asked to tie her up, a request she declined, Gundy said.
When the detectives ran Urdiales' name through a national data base they came across the misdemeanor gun conviction and then did tests on the weapon that linked him to the murders in Illinois, Gundy said.
Prosecutors contend that Urdiales committed four of the murders while serving as a U.S. Marine at various facilities in Southern California.
He was discharged in 1991, when he moved back to his home state of Illinois. The fifth murder, which happened in Palm Springs, allegedly was committed by Urdiales while he was on vacation, prosecutors said.
In 1996, Urdiales killed three prostitutes in Illinois. He was convicted of all three killings and sentenced to death. The death sentences for the first two killings were commuted by then-Gov. George H. Ryan to life in prison without the possibility of parole, as were the death sentences of all other Illinois inmates. The death sentence for the third killing was commuted this
year when Illinois outlawed capital punishment.
In Southern California, Urdiales is accused of killing:
-- 23-year-old Robbin Brandley on Jan. 18, 1986, in Mission Viejo;
-- 29-year-old Julie McGhee on July 17, 1988, in Cathedral City;
-- 31-year-old Maryann Wells on Sept. 25, 1988, in San Diego;
-- 20-year-old Tammie Erwin on April 16, 1989, in Palm Springs; and
-- 32-year-old Denise Maney on March 11, 1995, in Palm Springs.
According to prosecutors, Urdiales stabbed Brandley 41 times in the back, neck, chest and hands while she was walking to her car at Saddleback College, where she had just finished her shift as an usher at a jazz piano concert.
Brandley's parents Jack and Genelle Reilley were in court today. It was the first time Genelle Reilley had seen Urdiales, she said.
"I thought, `Oh, that's him,' so I looked away. I didn't want to see him," Genelle Reilley said. "He took away our future, grandchildren, so much."
Brandley, who changed her last name with the blessing of her parents, wanted to be a writer, her parents said.
Robbin was a "burst of sunshine," Jack Reilley said. "She wanted to be a businesswoman, she wanted a career. She wanted a husband, family. She had it all mapped out... It's hard to believe she died on that campus on that cold night. Her life was full of every promise. It's just not fair."
Jack Reilley said he attended Urdiales' trial in Illinois and testified during the sentencing.
"When I saw Urdiales walk into the courtroom I felt I was in the presence of absolute evil," Jack Reilley said. "And he looked just as evil today. I had a chill run down my spine."
Brandley was "randomly" picked to be a victim, Gundy said.
McGhee, Wells, Erwin and Maney were all prostitutes, according to Gundy.
Urdiales allegedly picked up McGhee in Indian Wells then drove her to a remote area of Cathedral City, had sex with her then and shot her in the head.
Urdiales allegedly paid Wells $40, then drove her to a deserted San Diego industrial complex where he had sex with her, shot her in the head and took back the $40 he had paid her. Prosecutors contend he left a condom at the scene, and DNA evidence was recovered.
Urdiales picked up Erwin, drove her to a remote area of Palm Springs, had sex with her then shot her three times, Gundy alleged.
Prosecutors claim he used the same gun to kill McGhee, Wells and Erwin, then dismantled the weapon and disposed of the parts.
While vacationing in Palm Springs in 1995, he allegedly picked up Maney, drove her to a remote area, tied her hands behind her back, had sex with her and stabbed her to death.
Urdiales initially was linked to the Southern California slayings by statements he made to authorities in Illinois, Gundy said.
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