Relatives, friends baffled by O.C. woman's disappearance

Army veteran Maribel Ramos, 36, failed to show up for a speaking engagement and a long-standing softball commitment. That's not like her, but police have found no signs of foul play.

May 13, 2013|By Rick Rojas and Anh Do, Los Angeles Times
  • Maribel Ramos, an Army veteran, 36, was seen last on surveillance footage as she turned in her rent check.
Maribel Ramos, an Army veteran, 36, was seen last on surveillance footage… (Family photo )

Dependable and steady, Maribel Ramos was a hard-charging Army veteran just a couple of weeks away from graduating from college with a degree in criminal justice.

Beyond all else, friends agree, she was not the kind of person who'd simply walk away.

But Ramos, 36, has been missing for 11 days, seen last on surveillance footage turning in her rent check at her apartment complex in Orange on May 2.

She was reported missing the next day, a Friday, after she failed to show up for a speaking commitment at a veterans group event and then never showed at the softball game she'd played weekly for almost six years.

Ramos left behind her car and her dog, a Chihuahua mix named Mia, a constant at her side. It appears that she had her cellphone and wallet when she vanished.

"We don't have any evidence that would substantiate a crime did occur," said Sgt. Fred Lopez, a spokesman for the Orange Police Department. Although there was no sign of foul play, to investigators, disappearing without alerting those close to her seemed out of character, he added.

"She would never walk away from commitments, never walk away from family," Lopez said.

Family and friends joined with officials to launch an online search. They've organized a website and a Facebook page, handed out fliers and are making T-shirts with photographs of Ramos, described as 5 feet, 3 inches and about 130 pounds, with shoulder-length brown hair. She has tattoos of an Aztec tribal symbol on her back and a star on her left shoulder.

More than 150 supporters rallied over the weekend at an awareness walk near Ramos' home in Orange, and a similar number were expected to attend a candlelight vigil Monday night to pray for her safety, said her cousin, Frank Campos.

"We're trying to think of everything we can do."

Friends and family said they are concerned and confused.

Campos said he talked with his cousin about 6 p.m. May 2. The two had played in the same softball game for years. "I'll see you then," she told him.

She had bailed out on the game before, Campos said. She was studying at Cal State Fullerton, and that was her focus, especially around exam time. But Campos said she'd usually shoot him a text: "I can't make it tomorrow."

This time there was no text, and no one in her family was able to make contact with her. They went to her apartment and saw a light on in her bedroom window, but the place was empty. That's when they called police.

"It's just unusual of her," Campos said. "She doesn't do anything like that. This is not Maribel.... She's not the type of person to get up and go. There had to be something."

Others agree.

Ramos worked as an executive security agent, and in her most recent assignment, she was "always on time, presents herself as a true professional," said Devin Tullis, chief executive of Tullis Worldwide Protection, based in Virginia.

He hired Ramos for a protection detail when a foreign dignitary visited California.

"In our field, you're paid to be on your toes. We are alert, stay aware of our surroundings," Tullis said. "But it's a whole different world between our professional and personal lives. People in their personal lives might get comfortable and they don't notice the danger signs."

Campos, who grew up with Ramos in Orange County, called her "a tough cookie. She won't go down without a fight."

More than that, though, he described her as a person who could be relied upon. As one of six children, she cared for her mother before she died, and served for eight years in the Army — including tours in Iraq and Korea — before she was honorably discharged in 2008.

"She fought for our country," he said, "and now we're fighting for her at home."

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