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Couple Found Killed in Home

Bodies of the Santa Paula victims were together in their bed. Both were longtime co-workers at a Camarillo company.

October 23, 2002|Massie Ritsch | Times Staff Writer

A couple who met on the job and dreamed of retirement were found slain late Monday in their bedroom on a tidy cul-de-sac in Santa Paula.

John M. Ramirez, Jr., 59, and Joann Wotkyns, 55, appear to have been killed between 10 p.m. Sunday and Monday morning, police said. An autopsy Tuesday determined Ramirez had been bludgeoned in the head, Santa Paula Police Chief Bob Gonzales said. Wotkyns' autopsy is scheduled for today.

There is no evidence either victim had been shot, and it does not appear one spouse killed the other, Gonzales said.

"We believe that both died within moments of one another," Gonzales said.

Investigators have not determined a reason for the killings and have not recovered any weapons used in the slayings. After finding the bodies, police located Wotkyns' Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the parking lot of a nearby Kmart store.

Neighbors were shocked that the quiet couple who gave away pottery had died in such a manner. At Imation, the Camarillo computer tape company where Ramirez and Wotkyns had worked for more than 30 years, co-workers met with a grief counselor.

After the couple failed to show up for work, police were sent to the home in the 1000 block of Corte La Brisa. Officers arrived to find a back door unlocked, and found Ramirez and Wotkyns upstairs on their bed, Gonzales said.

The chief said blood was on the bed, walls and carpet. Otherwise, the house was pristine.

In the couple's Las Pasadastract, neighbors could not recall any major crimes since the homes started going up in the late 1980s. The last time one detective could recall visiting the neighborhood was a decade ago, to investigate an annoying phone call.

Slayings are so rare in the farming town that the police chief can recite where they occurred and how the victims were killed. Ramirez and Wotkyns were Santa Paula's third and fourth homicides of 2002. All four of the Police Department's detectives are working the case, along with investigators from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and the coroner's and district attorney's offices.

Ramirez and Wotkyns met at Imation, which makes data cartridges for computers. They have grown children from previous marriages, police and neighbors said.

Wotkyns, who coordinated training for Imation's workers, was planning a work-related trip to Tucson this week. Ramirez moved products around the warehouse. Both talked of retirement.

They were an unusual-looking match -- Joann was about a head taller than John -- but "they seemed to really gel well together," said Steve Schmitz, the plant's operations manager.

At home, she painted ceramic angels, roosters, plates and other pottery. They had kilns in their garage, said Richard Garland, who lives next door.

John Ramirez was friendly but not overbearing--"a perfect neighbor," Garland said.

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