An Indio police officer accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old female relative at his Palm Desert home was ordered Thursday to stand trial on rape and other felony charges.
Sergio Ramirez, 35, is accused of sexually assaulting the young woman, identified in court as “Jane Doe,” on Aug. 6, 2016.
Sheriff’s Investigator Rebecca Smith, testifying at a preliminary hearing before Superior Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez, said the alleged victim began staying at the defendant’s home the summer after she graduated from high school and about one month after she turned 18.
Smith testified that Doe, who is related to the defendant’s wife, was inside a bedroom in the early morning hours when Ramirez came into the room and laid down next to her, while smelling heavily of alcohol. She moved to another room, but he followed her there and allegedly began sexually assaulting her on a couch, according to the investigator.
Smith testified that Doe pretended to be asleep during the alleged assault — “playing possum,” as Deputy District Attorney Deana Bohenek described it — thinking he would stop if he thought she was asleep. She eventually opened her eyes, at which he point he asked her if she was OK, but she didn’t respond, and the alleged assault continued, with Ramirez repeatedly telling her “how hot she was,” according to Smith.
Doe’s reaction to the alleged assault was “total shock,” according to the investigator.
“She felt like they had a father-daughter relationship and she felt like it was a lie, that he never really loved her as a daughter,” Smith testified. “She didn’t realize that he had been looking at her in that manner.”
Doe was also aware that he had police training and knew “tactics in order to keep people quiet,” Smith said.
She fled to a friend’s home down the street and then went to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, where she underwent a sexual assault examination.
DNA results from that examination revealed Ramirez’s DNA — through saliva — on one of her breasts, according to a report presented at the preliminary hearing. Ramirez’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, alleged that the DNA was the only corroboration that any sexual assault occurred, and was not sufficient evidence to hold his client to answer to the charges.
No such DNA was found in her vaginal area, but the assault examination did reveal vaginal injuries, which Schwartz speculated could have been inflicted in some other way.
The clothes she was wearing had been washed by Ramirez’s wife by the time investigators served a search warrant at their home, Smith said.
The defendant’s wife joined Doe at the hospital and tried to convince her to leave without undergoing the sexual assault examination, but was escorted out by a nurse, the investigator testified. Ramirez’s wife later texted Doe and told her she was free to leave the hospital at any time and that hospital staff could not keep her there, Smith said.
A declaration for an arrest warrant filed with the court alleges that “family members have already attempted to dissuade the victim from moving forward with the case.” Smith testified that Doe has been more or less cut off from the family since the allegations against Ramirez surfaced.
Ramirez was arrested Aug. 31 in Indio and was released the following day on $85,000 bail. He’s slated to return to court Feb. 1 for a post- preliminary hearing arraignment.
–City News Service
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