LAKE FOREST (CBSLA) — Some of the victims of a bizarre and violent crime spree in Lake Forest Tuesday are speaking out following their frightening ordeal.
The suspect was arrested and booked for attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, felony hit-and-run and carjacking.
Two women were left in critical condition by the attack — one stabbed repeatedly, the other hit by a vehicle the suspect carjacked, officials said.
Surveillance video of the stabbed woman — Marylou Villalobos Palos — shows her running through the street yelling “Help!” as the suspect, now identified as 25-year-old James Carlos Melendrez, chased her down the block.
The attack was thwarted when a passing bicyclist pepper-sprayed the suspect.
Authorities told CBS2’s Michele Gile that the bizarre incident began around 5 p.m. when the suspect got into a fight near a Salvation Army store on Rockfield Boulevard and then ran to a nearby apartment complex on Ridge Route Drive.
Police said Melendrez then forced his way into an apartment, where he was confronted by a man and woman inside. He fled.
Some of the victims Gile spoke to said Melendrez had “a strange grin on his face” and they believed him to be on the influence of something.
Melendrez then allegedly crossed Rockfield Boulevard and then forced his way into a home on Danby Drive by smashing a back window.
There he encountered the 42-year-old Palos and her two teenage daughters. After breaking in, he grabbed a kitchen knife, deputies said. In an effort to get him out of the house and away from her daughters, the mother ran out into the street, with Melendrez giving chase.
He caught up to her and stabbed her at the intersection of Danby Drive and Mullin Road. Palos’ husband, Enrique, told Gile the suspect stabbed her 20 times around the face, neck and upper body.”She’s going to be okay,” he said.
During the stabbing, several Good Samaritans in a BMW stopped to help the woman. The suspect then chased them and stole their BMW.
“He was on drugs,” said Kelly Meyer, “you could tell he was on something. His eyes were just weird, like they were looking through you. Just strange. He looked weird.”
He drove erratically into the area of Lake Forest Drive and Muirlands Boulevard, where he jumped a curb and slammed into a woman in her 50s who was walking on the sidewalk, the sheriff’s department reported.
The suspect continued driving onto Aspan Street, where he slammed into another car, then got out and ran into a nearby trailer park across from Muirlands Boulevard, authorities said.
Officials said he then tried to break into a home and carjack several more vehicles.
As he was trying to pull a mother and her daughter out of their car, a passing bicyclist pepper sprayed him.
Deputies then arrived on scene and put the suspect in handcuffs. Melendrez was briefly hospitalized.
Detectives are trying to determine if drugs or a mental illness played a role in the violent attacks.
In the meantime, Palos’ daughters know their mother was trying to save them.
“She did save our lives,” says Elizabeth Palos, “that’s an awesome thing. My mom is the best. I love her so much. I’m grateful to have a mom like that.”
Melendrez is in jail being held on a $2 million bail.