SANTA ANA (CBS/AP) — The attorneys for a former Marine suspected of slaying six people, four of them homeless men, are calling for an independent investigation into their client’s death from eating Ajax in his jail cell.
Attorney Michael Molfetta said Friday that 25-year-old former Marine Itzcoatl Ocampo apparently accumulated the cleaning substance over time.
Orange County sheriff’s officials are not calling the death a suicide, but attorneys say the death raises questions about deputies’ oversight of Ocampo, who they say had serious mental health issues and was suicidal.
“A normal individual is supposed to be monitored at least once every hour,” said Randall Longwith, the co-counsel for Ocampo. “If somehow he was able to get enough cleaning product, whether it be Ajax or whatever, to kill him, the one question is well how did he get that?’
The department will not discuss details of Ocampo’s death, citing a pending autopsy.
Lieutenant Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said deputies check prisoners every hour if not more, but would not comment on whether or not that happened in this case.
“What I can say is that typically inmates in the Orange Couty jail are distributed small amounts of cleaning product to clean their cells. So for inmate Ocampo to have a small amount of cleaning product would not be out of the ordinary,” Lt. Hallock said.
The sheriff’s department insists the investigation into Ocampo’s death is already independent. The autopsy has been outsourced to an outside pathologist because the Coroner is employed by the sheriff’s department.
Officials say Ocampo was found shaking and vomiting in his single-man cell Wednesday and was taken to a hospital where he died Thursday afternoon.
The families of Ocampo’s six alleged victims learned of his death shortly after.
“We felt like a little injustice because there wasn’t going to be a trial,” said Marie Middaugh, the mother of alleged victim Lloyd Jimmy Middaugh. Middaugh’s family said they feel cheated by his early death but are grateful to be spared a lengthy trial.
“This is over. We don’t have to relive things again, I don’t have to dread getting a phone call we’re going to have a hearing, and all the horror coming back,” Marie Middaugh said.
The native of Mexico was charged with stabbing four homeless men in what prosecutors called a serial thrill-kill rampage in late 2011 and early 2012.
He was also charged with killing a former classmate’s mother and brother.
The Iraq war veteran’s trial was set to begin in May. Prosecutors planned to seek the death penalty.
An autopsy is scheduled for next week.
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