A state appeals court panel Thursday upheld a Carson man’s conviction for murdering his wife of more than four decades after she served him with divorce papers.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that the trial court erred in admitting statements that had been made by Benjamin Christino Ramirez’s 67-year-old wife, Fely, before she was killed.
The victim — who was shot in the head and chest — was found dead on a couch with divorce papers sitting on her upper legs, according to the appellate court panel’s ruling.
Ramirez subsequently told investigators that he had not intended to shoot his wife, had not shot her in the head, had intended to kill himself and did not know why he did not take his own life, according to the ruling.
Jurors heard testimony that the victim told the couple’s daughter that Ramirez had told her, “I’ll kill you before you take away my Pomona houses,” referring to rental properties the couple owned in Pomona, along with a text message she sent to the couple’s son and daughter in which she wrote, “I’m so scared! And nervous!” in the morning of Oct. 5, 2018, the day she was killed.
“In this matter, the nature of the relationship between Fely and defendant, her feelings about defendant, her intention to divorce him, and her communications with the defendant on those topics were relevant to rebut defendant’s position that he acted rashly in killing her. They were relevant to show a plan and a motive and to rebut any suggestion that Fely provoked the killing by serving the divorce papers,” according to the 44-page opinion.
The appellate court panel noted that the victim’s state of mind was at issue and that the statements “contained direct and indirect expressions of Fely’s state of mind, including her fear, her unhappiness, and her desire for a divorce.”
Ramirez, now 70, was taken into custody a day after his wife’s killing, released from jail within several days, then re-arrested nearly two weeks later. He has remained behind bars since then and is serving a 35-year-to-life state prison sentence.
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