Part one of a two-part interview...
"There's something strange in this," says Refugio Ocampo, father of accused serial killer Itzcoatl Ocampo, as he dragged on a cigarette in Anaheim's industrial corridor. "[The Orange County District Attorney's office] had a winning case [against Itzcoatl]. So the first question--if he took something...he was under watch. How was it possible he could take something?"
Refugio was understandably furious. The previous day, his son had passed away after ingesting Ajax in his single-man cell at Central Jail. Itzcoatl, of course, was awaiting trial for the murders of six people in late 2011 and early 2012--next to the Kelly Thomas killing, perhaps the OC DA's most high-profile case on the dockets. And now, it was all gone, with both DA Tony Rackauckas and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens accused of incompetence in yet the latest OC jail death.
It was more than mere negligence to Refugio, though. In an exclusive interview with the Weekly (he denied all other media requests this past weekend) he recounted the last day of Itzcoatl's life, a picture emerged of a family desperately trying to reach their son, and an OC legal establishment angrily unsympathetic to their pleas to spend one final moment with a dying Itzcoatl.
According to Refugio, he and his wife were called by doctors at Western Medical Center Wednesday afternoon in SanTana that Itzcoatl had been declared brain dead. Upon reaching the hospital, the stall game began. "The doctor told us that my son had either drank a lot of water or chemicals, but that he was brain dead," Refugio said. "When my wife pointed out that it takes a lot of water to get to that point, he said he was just repeating what the paramedics told him. When I asked whether he had received a report from the paramedics, he said no. What kind of incompetence is that."
Itzcoatl's parents asked if they could see their son. Three sheriff's deputies in the emergency room then accompanied them, commanding the two they could not talk to him, touch him, and had to stand 20 feet away--and only a glimpse. At the hospital, Refugio described a chaotic scene, with deputies, doctors, nurses and orderlies arguing among themselves for reasons the father couldn't discern.
The following morning, at 6 a.m., Refugio and his wife returned wanting to see their son again. No go: deputies on the scene wouldn't allow it without a sign-off from a judge. "They treated us like animals," he claimed. "It was an order from above to deny us the chance to see our son."
The two went to Men's Central Jail to ask for help, where the presiding officer said "we couldn't see him until he returned to jail." In frustration, Refugio called on Itzcoatl's two lawyers, Michael Molfetta and Randy Longwith, for help. They called the DA; Refugio said Rackauckas wouldn't sign off letting Refugio and his wife see their son (OC DA spokesperson Susan Kang Schroeder denied the allegation, saying it was "wrong information").
They never saw Itzcoatl alive again; he was pronounced dead Thanksgiving at 1:38 p.m. Even then, the Ocampos were not allowed to see Itzcoatl until after investigators came and "did their show," Refugio said. And deputies wouldn't allow Longwith in, leading to a confrontation between Refugio and investigators until Longwith interceded and said he'd wait outside. Once inside the morgue, deputies "stared at us," and nurses asked if they'd consider allowing the harvesting of Itzcoatl's organs, which his parents denied.
"They killed my son," Refugio said, tears welling up in his eyes. "Did no one oversee him in jail? How? Why? If they had a case to win, why did they let this happen?"
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He plans to have Ocampo cremated per his wishes, but doesn't know when that'll happen. "We don't know what's next," he said. "No one's telling us."
Tomorrow: Refugio on his son's military service, and his preferred final resting place.