A 20-year-old man accused of committing a series of fatal crimes at Southern California’s 7-Eleven stores is set to be charged on Monday with three counts of murder, as well as attempted murder and other crimes, with the Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. calling the defendant a “cold as stone serial killer”.
Spitzer said Malik Patt, of Los Angeles, will be charged with two July 11 murders at or near 7-Eleven stores in Santa Ana and Brea, as well as the July 9 murder of a homeless man in North Hills in Los Angeles County, Spitzer said. The crimes will all be prosecuted in Orange County.
“Patt is a ruthless serial killer,” Spitzer said at a press conference on Monday. “There is no other way to describe it.”
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 allegations of special circumstances 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.
Patt faces a death sentence if prosecutors choose to prosecute her. At a minimum, he would face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted at trial.
A co-defendant in the case, Jason Payne, 44, described as a neighbor of Patt’s, will be charged with three counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery, stemming from burglaries in Santa Ana, La Habra and Brea , says Spitzer.
Payne is only expected to be charged with robbery — not murder — at this time due to a change in state law that requires prosecutors to show more evidence that the suspect knew the murder was part of the plan and that he acted in a manner that showed reckless indifference to the victims’ lives, Spitzer said.
Patt and Payne’s relationship isn’t entirely clear, but they are neighbors in Los Angeles and have a “long-standing relationship,” Spitzer said. Payne was allegedly a helmsman in the skirmishes, but Patt is also accused of diverting a victim to get to the getaway car Payne was driving, Spitzer said.
The criminal charges were due to be filed on Monday afternoon, with the couple likely to appear in court for arraignment on Tuesday.
Spitzer said Patt’s actions sent “chills down my spine.”
“To see someone who could kill people in cold blood like that is just unfathomable. It’s chilling,” he said.
Patt and Payne were arrested around 1:10 p.m. Friday in the 1900 block of West 23rd Street in Los Angeles, authorities said. Police said Patt was the prime suspect seen in widely circulated surveillance video photos of some of the robberies.
According to Spitzer, the crime spree led by Patt began on July 9 with the murder of a homeless man in the 16100 block of Parthenia Street in the North Hills area. This murder took place about 200 yards from a 7-Eleven store that was robbed later that day.
Los Angeles County investigators were still working to determine if this and another 7-Eleven robbery were related to Patt or Payne.
Authorities said the 7-Eleven crime spree happened on July 11 — or 7-11 — in Ontario. Police said just after midnight, 7-Eleven at 636 N. Vine Ave. had been robbed. The suspect held up the store with a handgun, but no shots were fired and no one was injured.
At 1:35 a.m. Monday, the 7-Eleven store at 2410 W. Arrow Route in Upland was robbed, police said.
At 1:50 a.m., a 7-Eleven store at 5102 La Sierra Ave. in Riverside was robbed by a gunman. This robbery escalated, with the suspect shooting a client, who was hospitalized in what was described as serious condition. Riverside Police Department Officer Ryan Railsback said Friday the victim showed “slight improvement, but is still very critical.”
Spitzer said any trial would be held in one county for most of the alleged crimes. Thefts that occurred in Ontario and the highlands would be handled in San Bernardino County, Spitzer said. Orange County will prosecute the shooting at 7-Eleven in Riverside if the victim dies, but will be prosecuted in Riverside County if the victim survives the attack, Spitzer said.
Minutes after 3 a.m. on July 11, a Yum Yum Donuts at 2441 N. Tustin St. in Santa Ana was broken into, Valentin said.
About 20 minutes later, 24-year-old Matthew Rule of Santa Ana was shot dead outside the 7-Eleven store at 302 E. 17th St. in Santa Ana. Officers found Rule in the parking lot with a gunshot wound to the upper body, Santa Ana Police Department Sgt. said Maria Lopez. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin said Rule was not the shooter’s primary target. He said the shooter was targeting someone else, but Rule “stepped in” to “redirect” the thief and was shot.
Brea police said they responded at 4:17 a.m. to the 7-Eleven store at 109 W. Lambert Road and found a store worker fatally shot in what officers determined was a robbery. The clerk was later identified as Matthew Hirsch, 40, who died at the scene, police said.
About half an hour later, the 7-Eleven store at 381 E. Whittier Blvd. in La Habra was robbed and two people were shot, according to Sgt. Eric Roy of the La Habra Police Department. Both victims were taken to hospital and both were expected to survive. Police said the victims were a clerk and a customer.
Based on surveillance footage, police said they were able to link the same suspect to all of the burglaries.
Orange County Board Chairman Doug Chaffee said county officials were discussing a reward, but law enforcement was so efficient they didn’t get the opportunity to do so, so they will use at least $100,000 to benefit the victims of the attacks, Chaffee said. A vote on the victims’ fund will take place on Tuesday.
The 7-Eleven company last week offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect in the robberies and murders. It was unclear if anyone would be eligible to claim the reward.
“We are grateful that the Orange County District Attorney announced that local law enforcement has apprehended suspects related to the recent violent incidents. We will continue to fully support law enforcement in their investigation,” according to a company statement released after the arrests.
City News Service contributed to this article.