A man who raped and killed a young woman in Garden Grove three decades ago has “an affinity for knives and hatred toward women” and should be put to death, a prosecutor said Wednesday, while the defendant’s attorney cited his client’s upbringing at the hands of an abusive alcoholic.
A new jury was sworn in to consider life in prison without the possibility of parole or the ultimate punishment for Richard Raymond Ramirez, 55. The panel that convicted him last year deadlocked in the penalty phase, splitting 7-5 in favor of recommending the death penalty.
“The story of Richard Ramirez is the story of his affinity for knives and his hatred toward women,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said.
In May 2013 Ramirez was convicted for the second time of rape and first- degree murder in the Nov. 21, 1983, killing of 22-year-old Kim Gonzalez. Jurors found true a special circumstance allegation of murder during a rape, along with a sentence-enhancing knife-use allegation.
Ramirez was first convicted in March 1985 of first-degree murder and sex counts, with jurors finding true special circumstance allegations of killing during a rape and sodomy. Ramirez was sentenced to death in July 1985.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall overturned the conviction because the jury foreman failed to notify the court that he had applied for a job with the FBI — a position for which he was hired months after the trial.
Before Ramirez killed Gonzalez, he was prosecuted as a juvenile for raping a single mother in her home, although he was 18 at the time of the crime. Ramirez was sent to the California Youth Authority for raping the victim multiple times in her apartment in Merced in October 1977 while her baby slept in the next room, Yellin said.
At knifepoint, Ramirez raped her three times and sexually assaulted her with a plastic bottle, Yellin said.
When he was finished, he went looking in the room where the baby was sleeping for money to steal from the victim, who told him she only had food stamps to take, Yellin said.
“She had a decision to make, so she ran, naked, hysterical, calling for help from her neighbors,” Yellin said.
As she waited for police, she wondered if her baby had been killed, Yellin said. The infant was unhurt.
Ramirez was caught hours later because the woman recognized him from an encounter a day or two earlier, when he “bummed” a cigarette from her in the apartment complex, Yellin said.
Gonzalez lived in Cerritos but enjoyed going out with her friends in Orange County at places such as Mr. Barry’s in Garden Grove. On the night of her murder, she went there alone and met Ramirez, Yellin said.
The two spent time together dancing, playing pool and kissing until they left together, Yellin said. Her body was found the next morning “in this dirty, filthy walkway,” he said, pointing to a crime-scene photograph.
“She’s nearly naked, bloody and dead,” he said.
The principal evidence against Ramirez in the first trial was a matching fingerprint on a Budweiser bottle left in the alley. Ramirez, in the first trial, testified he did not kill the victim. But in last year’s trial, his guilt was conceded by attorneys who acknowledged that new technology allowed investigators to make a DNA match between the defendant and Gonzalez.
Mick Hill of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office told jurors there was no excuse for his client’s crimes.
“He’s spent the past 31 years in a jail cell,” Hill said. “We’re not telling you he deserves to be anywhere else.”
But Hill asked jurors to consider Ramirez’s dysfunctional upbringing at the hands of his alcoholic, combat-scarred veteran father.
“Believe it or not, the story of Mr. Ramirez starts in the Korean War before Mr. Ramirez was born,” Hill said, referring to the defendant’s father’s experience on the front lines as a “radio man.”
“He came back (to the U.S.) a damaged man,” Hill said.
Sonny Ramirez, who died in 1973, would have been diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder today, Hill said.
Expert witnesses will testify about how Ramirez’s upbringing in a violent household shaped him, Hill said.
Sonny Ramirez met his son’s mother when she was 15, and by her next birthday she was pregnant, Hill said, adding that the next 15 years of the marriage were “pure hell.”
Jane Ramirez was regularly beaten by her husband, even while she was pregnant, Hill said. After some beatings, Sonny Ramirez would rape his wife, Hill said.
On the weekends, Sonny Ramirez would put his four kids in the car and drive around with a 12-pack of beer in the front seat as he downed one can at a time, according to Hill. He started feeding the defendant and his brother beer when they were 4 years old, and when they were older, he would subject them to “human cockfighting” with other neighborhood children. If they lost, he would beat them for shaming the family, Hill said.
Ramirez dropped out of school in the eighth grade because he could not read, got hooked on heroin at 13 and then started sniffing glue, Hill said.
He has behaved well behind bars, his attorney said. A former San Quentin prison warden is expected to testify that the defendant, who has kidney disease, has been a “model prisoner,” Hill said.
—City News Service