The following information was released by the Orange County District Attorney.
A man was convicted yesterday of raping and murdering a 22-year-old woman in an alley behind a bar in 1983. The defendant was previously convicted and sentenced to receive the death penalty in this case in 1985, but his conviction was later overturned by the Federal District Court for the Central District of California on writ of habeas corpus.
Richard Raymond Ramirez, 53, was found guilty by a jury May 15, 2013, of one felony count of special circumstances murder in the commission of rape, one felony count of rape, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon.
As the District Attorney is seeking the death penalty in this case, the trial will now move to the second phase, the penalty phase. In the penalty phase, the same jury who found the defendant guilty of the crime will consider the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the evidence to determine the defendant’s penalty, death or life without the possibility of parole. Opening statements in the penalty phase are expected to begin Monday, May 20, 2013, at 9 a.m. in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Circumstances of the crime
On the night of Nov. 20, 1983, 22-year-old Kim Gonzalez was at Mr. Barry’s bar in Garden Grove. Throughout the night, Gonzalez was seen in the bar with then-24-year-old Ramirez, whom she had met two weeks earlier at the same bar while out with her brother and a friend. The defendant spent the night drinking, talking, dancing with, and kissing the victim.
At approximately 1 a.m. on Nov. 21, 1983, Gonzalez left the bar through a door that led to the rear parking lot. Ramirez followed Gonzalez outside carrying a long-neck bottle of Budweiser beer. Once outside in a nearby alley, Ramirez attacked the victim.
Ramirez raped Gonzalez and then murdered her by stabbing her 19 times. One of the stabs went through her neck, severing the victim’s spinal cord. After murdering the defendant, Ramirez fled the scene. Gonzalez’s body was found in the alley at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 21, 1983. The victim was naked from the waist down with her pants and underwear pulled down near her ankles and knees.
Fingerprints were later retrieved from a Budweiser beer bottle 15 feet from the victim’s body. The defendant’s fingerprints were identified as those left on that bottle found in the alley.
Semen was collected from the scene from the rape of the victim. While DNA testing did not exist in 1983, medical experts at the time determined using available scientific methods that 60 percent of the male population, including defendant, could have been the source of the semen.
The Garden Grove Police Department investigated this case.
Previous conviction and death penalty sentence
Ramirez was found guilty by a jury in March 1985 of first degree murder, rape, sodomy, and the special circumstances of murder in the commission of rape and murder in the commission of sodomy. The Orange County District Attorney sought the death penalty at that time. The first jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision, and a second jury in a re-trial of the penalty phase determined that Ramirez should be sentenced to death. Ramirez was sentenced to the death penalty on July 26, 1985.
The original trial and penalty phase was prosecuted by former Deputy District Attorney and current Superior Court Judge, the Honorable Thomas Goethals.
Ramirez appealed to the California Supreme Court, who affirmed the defendant’s conviction in June 1990. The defendant ultimately filed a writ of habeas corpus to the Federal District Court for the Central District of California.
During pendency of federal proceedings, Ramirez was linked to the murder of Gonzalez through DNA using technology that was not available in 1983.
In February 2008, Federal District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall overturned Ramirez’s conviction as to both the guilt phase in the first trial and penalty phase in the second trial. She opined that a juror in the original guilt phase trial failed to reveal he had filed an application to be a law enforcement officer, even though he was never asked by the defense attorney.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.
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