Itzcoatl Ocampo

The attorney for Itzcoatl 'Izzy' Ocampo says investigators believe his client collected enough Ajax powder for a lethal dose that he then swallowed. (Bruce Chambers/Reuters)

The attorney for an accused Orange County, Calif. serial killer who died after deputies discovered he was ill in his cell said his client died after swallowing some Ajax, an industrial cleaner.

Michael Molfetta said investigators believe his client, Itzcoatl “Izzy” Ocampo, accumulated enough Ajax for a lethal dose that he then ingested. Deputies found Ocampo in his single-man cell about 6:35 p.m. Wednesday, shaking and vomiting.

Ocampo, 25, was taken to a hospital, where he died in the intensive care unit about 1:40 p.m. Thursday.

PHOTOS: Serial killer targets O.C. homeless

The incident raises concerns about how the Sherriff’s Department monitors its inmates, especially someone like Ocampo who has attracted so much media attention, Molfetta said.

“I’m completely baffled as to how this can happen to a guy who is, if not the most high-profile inmate in jail, one of them,” Molfetta said. “His family is grieving; they want to know how this happened.”

Ocampo was accused of killing six people: four homeless men, a woman and her son. He was scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial hearing next month. He was arrested in January 2012 after a series of slayings in north Orange County.

Ocampo told authorities that he targeted homeless people because they were "available and vulnerable" and believed he was performing a public service because their presence was a "blight" on the community. He set a personal goal of 16 slayings, authorities said.

"The temptation by people is to say, 'Who cares?' " Molfetta said. "That is a slippery slope right there because he is presumed innocent."

Ocampo’s death is being investigated by the Orange County district attorney’s office, as is routine procedure for in-custody deaths, the Sheriff’s Department said. An autopsy is scheduled early next week but toxicology results will not be available for several weeks.

Orange County prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty against Ocampo.

“There’s no excuse; this should not have happened,” Molfetta said. “How hard is it to keep poison away from him? The answer is it isn’t at all if you cared.”

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adolfo.flores@latimes.com

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