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Recalling Ramirez: Even Friends Didn't Trust Him

September 08, 1985|DAVID HOLLEY | Times Staff Writer

His father, Julian Ramirez, is a longtime employee of the Santa Fe Railway. His mother also worked while he was growing up, neighbors say. They recall that his parents were strict and old-fashioned. They often took the children to a nearby church, later demolished for construction of a freeway interchange that neighborhood residents call "the spaghetti bowl."

Ramirez's sister, Rosa Flores, still lives in the small white stucco house on Ledo Street where the children grew up, but the parents moved three or four years ago to a tract home on the edge of town.

In an interview with the El Paso Times on the day of his son's arrest, Julian Ramirez blamed his son's difficulties on marijuana. He also said that while he was born in Mexico, his wife and children were all El Paso natives.

Flores later declined a reporter's request to speak with the family, citing advice from an attorney.

School records show that Ramirez entered a Head Start program, aimed at helping children from disadvantaged families, in 1966, and began first grade later that year.

Frances Yvonne Bustillos, who grew up a few doors down Ledo Street from the Ramirez home, remembered Richard as "a quiet boy" in grade school.

"He would play around with the kids during recess and lunch," said Bustillos, 25. "In about the 8th grade, he started sniffing glue, I know that. I guess that's how he got started on drugs. From that, he went to marijuana."

Bustillos said her most vivid memory of Ramirez was that as a fifth- and sixth-grader at Cooley, he "used to have seizures."

"All of a sudden, you'd turn around and he'd be kicking and screaming, and they'd have to take him out," she said. "We don't know if they were epileptic seizures."

Bustillos and school officials said they were not aware of any such problem after Ramirez got older.

Ramirez was sometimes called "Ricky Robon"--Ricky the Thief in Spanish, Bustillos said.

Bustillos recalled that she and other neighborhood girls sometimes teased Ramirez by calling out, "It's time to close your doors--here comes Ricky Robon" when they saw him coming down the street.

"We used to make a joke of it," she said. "He'd just pass by. It didn't bother him."

Bustillos said that "around the neighborhood, he tried to get into houses" but that she never knew of him getting away with anything of great value.

"I guess at that time, it was more that he was seeing if he could get into the house," she said. "At school, he would pick purses and pockets, and see how much money he could get. Among his friends, he'd practice."

Several neighbors, however, said they never knew of Ramirez causing trouble.

"He was a pretty good guy," said Armando Sanchez, 58, who lived down the street. "He didn't bother anybody. . . . Actually, I don't think he did it. He's a skinny guy--I don't see how he could get so tough."

Remained a Freshman

Ramirez entered Jefferson High School in 1974. He was registered as a student until early 1977, but was absent so much that he never got out of freshman classification, school officials say.

After dropping out of school, Ramirez was assigned to a half-way house for delinquent youths.

His name first appears in El Paso Police Department records on Dec. 7, 1977, when a traffic stop led to his arrest on suspicion of marijuana possession.

In addition to a small quantity of marijuana, police found a ski mask, a toy cap pistol and a purse belonging to a woman who had reported it stolen from her handbag while she was shopping the day before, said Bill Moody, Assistant Dist. Atty. in El Paso. He said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the purse-snatching charge.

Ramirez was arrested three more times in El Paso for alleged marijuana possession. He completed a pretrial intervention program in a 1978 case; charges were dismissed for insufficient evidence in a 1979 case. His only conviction was in a 1982 case, when he pleaded guilty, and was given a 50-day suspended sentence and fined $115, Moody said.

Summer in Bay Area

Ramirez spent the summer of 1980 in the San Francisco Bay Area, recalled Earl Gregg Jr., 25, who said he lived with Ramirez in Richmond for about four months at that time.

Ramirez later lived in other parts of the Bay Area for a few years, moving to Los Angeles in late 1983, Gregg said.

While Ramirez lived in San Francisco, Gregg said, "he seemed like a good person." Gregg added, however, that "even though we were friends I still knew I couldn't trust him."

"There's something about him . . . if I had a thousand dollars sitting there, I wouldn't leave the guy alone with it," he said.

Ramirez "had a fascination for guns and knives," Gregg added.

Friend Noted a Change

Gregg, who now lives in Lompoc, said that when Ramirez moved to Los Angeles in late 1983 he changed dramatically. In Los Angeles, he started injecting cocaine and became involved in Satanism, Gregg said.

Gregg said he saw Ramirez periodically when he returned to the Bay Area for visits after he moved to Los Angeles.

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