Lady Justice 3 16-9

A death sentence was handed down Friday for a 55-year- old man who raped and killed a young woman in Garden Grove more than 30 years ago.

It was the second capital punishment sentence for Richard Raymond Ramirez, who was convicted in March 1985 of first-degree murder, with jurors finding true special circumstance allegations of killing during a rape and sodomy, in the Nov. 21, 1983, killing of 22-year-old Kim Gonzalez.

Ramirez was first sentenced to death in July 1985, but a federal judge 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.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett rejected a request to modify the jury’s recommendation and sentence the defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole, characterizing the crime as a “cold and vicious murder” that was done so the “brutally raped” victim could not identify him to authorities. He also noted that Ramirez had been imprisoned for another rape before he killed Gonzalez.

Gonzalez’s mother, Helen Hernandez, told Prickett that she was “very grateful I lived long enough to see this day.”

Gonzalez’s sister, Alicia Valdez, told the judge that her sibling “was a wonderful, loving person, sweet, kind, fun, caring and full of life. She had the prettiest smile, a warm, beautiful laugh.

“We are here today with heavy hearts, knowing that our beloved Kimberly was so brutally murdered and taken from us,” Valdez said.

Ramirez “preyed on her trust and her innocence of evil,” Valdez said.

Ramirez “may have ended Kimberly’s life, but he will never take away our precious memories,” Valdez continued. “She will forever be in our hearts. We love and miss her.”

After today’s hearing, “we will never have to think of this criminal, this murderer again,” Valdez said.

Another sister, Yvette Mejia, told the judge how Gonzalez had just gotten a job at a bank and saved up enough to buy her first car before the killing.

“Her smile was so awesome with those big dimples on her face,” Mejia said. “Kimberly was a beautiful person inside and out. She was very well- liked. She will forever be with me in memory and in my heart as long as I live. And after I’m gone she will still be remembered because I have passed on what I have to my children, especially her two nephews, who never had the chance to know her.”

The defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and rape in a May 2013 retrial, but jurors deadlocked on what punishment to recommend. Another jury recommended two months ago he put to death.

Before Ramirez killed Gonzalez, he was prosecuted as a juvenile for raping a single mother at knifepoint 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.

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, Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said.

Gonzalez, who lived in Cerritos, met Ramirez at Mr. Barry’s in Garden Grove. The two spent time together dancing, playing pool and kissing before leaving together. Her nearly naked, bloody body was found the next morning in a “dirty, filthy walkway,” Yellen 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 his retrial, 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, but asked them to consider Ramirez’s dysfunctional upbringing at the hands of an alcoholic, combat-scarred father, who saw action on the front lines in the Korean War.

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.

City News Service

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