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Couple's Killer Left in Wife's Car, Police Say

The abandoned vehicle was discovered a few blocks away after the Santa Paula pair were found bludgeoned in their bed.

October 25, 2002|Holly J. Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

The person who bludgeoned to death a Santa Paula couple in their bed this week left the crime scene in the wife's car and abandoned it a few blocks away at a local shopping center, police said Thursday.

Santa Paula Police Chief Bob Gonzales said officers are scouring Joann Wotkyn's 2001 black Chevy Monte Carlo for clues.

"It's an important link to solving this, and I hope we get what we need," Gonzales said.

There was no obvious evidence found inside the car, with the exception that the keys were left in the ignition, Gonzales said. Officers plan to collect hair, fiber and fingerprint evidence from the interior and search the trunk.

The car is the best clue detectives have so far in solving the slayings of Wotkyn, 55, and her husband, John M. Ramirez, 59.

Yet, Gonzales said investigators have concluded the killer knew the victims, because the killer came inside the couple's home through an unlocked back door, apparently stole nothing and killed them in a manner that could indicate a personal vengeance.

The couple were found slain late Monday in the upstairs master bedroom of their upscale home on Corte La Brisa. Both had been beaten and died from massive head injuries.

Wotkyn's car was found about 10 p.m. Monday in a nearby Kmart parking lot, about an hour after police found the bodies. A relative called police when the couple failed to show for work at the Camarillo computer firm where they had both been employed for about three decades.

After more than 50 interviews, detectives have cleared the couple's children of any suspicion, Gonzales said. Only two of the five children, Ramirez's two sons, live in the area, and none has an idea why their parents were killed. "They are at a loss," Gonzales said.

Investigators today and next week plan to interview several more neighbors, friends and co-workers to try to establish a motive.

The couple's marital life and finances also are being researched for possible clues, Gonzales said. So far, a search of the couple's house, backyard and a Chevy Suburban driven regularly by Ramirez has not turned up a murder weapon.

The chief is asking that anyone who may have seen someone driving Wotkyn's two-door Monte Carlo between 10 p.m. Sunday and 10 p.m. Monday call Santa Paula police. The car is black with black-and-white checkers on the sides, and has a white Tasmanian devil decal on the right rear trunk area.

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