Harrowing surveillance video released Wednesday captured a woman screaming for her life while running from a man with a knife moments before she was repeatedly stabbed during a violent rampage in Lake Forest.
The incident was part of a series of chaotic events that began around 5 p.m. Tuesday when a man -- identified as 25-year-old James Carlos Melendrez of Anaheim -- became involved in a physical altercation near the Salvation Army on Rockfield Boulevard, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Melendrez fled to a nearby apartment on Ridge Route Drive, where he entered a unit occupied by two people, one of whom chased him out, authorities said.
The suspect then allegedly broke into the stabbing victim's home on Danby Avenue by smashing a back window, a sheriff's news release stated.
Marylou Villalobos Palos, 42, was inside the house with her two teenage daughters at the time. She ran from the residence down Danby in an effort to lure the suspect out of the home and away from the girls.
Evelyn Palos, the victim’s 15-year-old daughter, said it was like “something out of a horror movie.”
“I was in the bathroom, and my sister was in her room," she told KTLA. "That’s just when I heard glass fall, and (Melendrez) went to the kitchen and grabbed a knife.”
The other girl, 13-year-old Elizabeth Palos, said she sprang from her bed and ran to see what happened.
"I went and I saw blood everywhere, and I thought my mom was dead,” she said.
Armed with a knife, Melendrez followed Marylou outside and pursued her, deputies said.
Part of the chase was captured on a home security camera. In the footage, the mother can be seen running down the street repeatedly yelling for help.
"He wants to kill me!" she can be heard screaming as the man following closely behind. "He wants to kill me! Help!"
A short distance away, on adjacent Mullin Road, the suspect caught up to Marylou and allegedly began stabbing her multiple times with the knife, according to the Sheriff's Department.
The brutal assault ended when multiple occupants of a BMW stopped their vehicle and came to the victim's aid. Melendrez then began chasing them with the weapon, the car's owner told KTLA.
“He went after my friend Mary with a knife, and I ran one way, she ran the other and he chased him around the car, like, multiple times," Kelly Meyer recalled. "And then he hopped in my car and he took it.”
After the carjacking, the suspect sped out of the neighborhood, at times driving erratically on the wrong side of the road, deputies said.
He is accused of being involved in two hit-and-run crashes, included one that left a female pedestrian in her 50s injured.
The suspect collided with another car a short time later, then got out of the vehicle and allegedly tried to break into nearby homes. When that failed, deputies said he unsuccessfully tried to carjack multiple vehicles.
Melendrez was arrested after a cyclist used pepper spray on him, according to the release. The suspect was taken into custody about nine minutes after the first incident was reported.
"He was either crazy as the day was long or he was on something, because he was just smiling the whole time, like he was having a good time," Daniel Alexander told KTLA. "I've never experienced anything like that in my entire life. It's a very, very frightening experience."
Both women who were injured in the rampage were hospitalized in critical condition, but are expected to survive.
Marylou's husband, Enrique Palos, said the doctor told her she is very lucky and she could be released from the hospital in a few days if things go well.
“She’s a hero,” Enrique said of his wife.
Melendrez has been booked on suspicion of attempted murder, carjacking and attempted carjacking, according to the Sheriff's Department. He is being held on $2 million bail.
KTLA's Erika Martin contributed to this report.