Gonzales Inquirer Editorial
By RANDY REESE/Staff
The final years of Chrystal Ramirez' short life continue to be a mystery to many of her relatives now that the eight-year-old has been laid to rest in a small, private ceremony none of them were able to attend.
Ramirez died on Aug. 23 after being brought to a local volunteer fire station near her home in Belmont with injuries reported to have occurred in a household mishap weeks earlier.
The girl was rushed to Memorial Hospital in Gonzales and pronounced dead when no vital signs were found.
Little Chrystal's mother Teresa Camarillo, aunt Veronica Almaguer, grandfather Benito Camarillo and uncle Augustine Camarillo are still wondering what went wrong with a system that allowed something like this to happen.
All four stood quietly along a wall at the Gonzales County Jail earlier this week as Gonzales County Sheriff Glen Sachtleben read a prepared statement concerning the case and also fielded a limited amount of questions from television reporters from Austin, Victoria and San Antonio.
Her adoptive mother and father, Rubin Stephen Ramirez and Bettie Ramirez were arrested and placed in the Gonzales County Jail, charged with Injury to a Child in the case. Rubin Stephen Ramirez remains in custody in lieu of $150,000 bond and Bettie Ramirez remains in custody in lieu of $100,000 bond.
Chrystal Ramirez and her siblings were taken from Teresa Camarillo when Chrystal was only 2. The mother said she has straightened her life out and gotten off the drugs, but has always been told by Child Protective Service officials that she would never be allowed to get her children back or even see them.
At the news conference both Augustine and Benito expressed the desire to be allowed to at least attend the funeral of the little girl and both were trying to find out when it would be held, although, again, they both said that officials had told them they were barred from the funeral.
Wednesday, Augustine found out that the funeral had been held earlier in the week. "I can't understand why they would not let her family say good bye to her," he said. "That is just not right."
At the news conference, it was found out that the girl had attended Nixon-Smiley schools before being removed so that she could be home schooled at their home near Belmont. That was two years ago. No one from the school nor the family have heard from the girl since, according to Benito Ramirez.
In fact, her grandfather said the immediate family had not seen the girl since 1999 and her mother said she had a chance sighting of the girl at a church function two years later.
Questions about the shape the girl was in when she died were asked by the television reporters and Sachtleben said the girl was emaciated and way below the weight she should be at for her age.
"Some of our people said the shape she was in was the worst they had ever seen in their career," the sheriff said just before he seemed to choke up from the memories. "I can assure you that my department and the district attorney are going to do everything we can to make sure this is investigated to the fullest."
Sachtleben also said that the charges against the Ramirezes could be raised to a higher level as the investigation continues.
He also said that other people that may have known about the apparent abuse could end up being charged and jailed before the investigation is over.
Benito Camarillo just wants answers at this point.
"I can not understand how something like this could happen," he said. "The state is supposed to be watching after adopted children and not letting them get hurt and killed.
"Chrystal was just a little girl. All she wanted to be was a little girl. These people took that away from her and she will never be able to do any of them. I just want the people that did this to pay for it. I do not want the law to let them get out of it."
Chrystal's mother, Teresa Camarillo, said she wishes she could do a lot of things over.
"I have paid many times over for the things I did when I was younger," she said. "I had to give up my children to the state and now look what has happened.
"I have gotten my life together since then and I would have loved to get Chrystal back but (CPS) told me time and time again that they were happy where they were and I didn't stand a chance of getting them back."
"(CPS) told me over and over that they were making sure the children were safe and okay, but that is obviously not true. I wish they could tell me why they were not watching after them. They kept all of us away from them and said that was for the best of the children. That's obviously not true."
On the day the initial 9-1-1 call was made, First Responders said the girl was cold and without a pulse by the time they got there.
Local law enforcement officers were only seconds away and began immediately to investigate what was originally called a suspicious death.
But, thanks to the hard work of a multitude of different people, before the day was out Friday, the two adoptive parents were behind bars.
The sheriff said, in the mid-afternoon on August 24, the Gonzales County Sheriff's Office received an emergency call advising that an ambulance was needed at the Belmont Fire Station, located in the western end of Gonzales County.
The caller advised that a child was being transported to the fire station that was unresponsive. First responders and Gonzales Emergency Medical Services were immediately sent to that location.
The responders attempted resuscitation with no results and notified law enforcement.
Sachtleben, Chief Deputy Dennis Richter and Deputy Felton Law responded to the scene and immediately started a preliminary investigation.
Observations of the victim at the scene indicated something seriously amiss, said Sachtleben.
Justice of the Peace Don Settliff ordered an autopsy be conducted by the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office and the deceased was transported there.
The officers on the scene made contact with Child Protective Services and with Norma's House, a Children's Advocacy Center, located in Gonzales.
The parents and siblings of the deceased child accompanied officers to Norma's House where forensic interviews of the children would be conducted.
After the interviews were completed, the children remained in care of CPS and the parents went to the Gonzales County Sheriff's Office for interviews. At the Sheriff's Office, interviews were conducted with the assistance of the District Attorney's Office Investigator Ted Crow and Texas Ranger Dwayne Goll.
The investigation continued following the parental interviews with Ranger Goll and Chief Deputy Richter attending the autopsy and counseling with the Medical Examiner.
Child Protective Services sought and received protective custody of the minor children from the courts early in the morning of the 25th
The parents, Rubin Stephen Ramirez and Bettie Ramirez were arrested and placed in the Gonzales County Jail, charged with Injury to a Child in the case of the deceased child Chrystal Ramirez. Rubin Stephen Ramirez remains in custody in lieu of $150,000 bond and Bettie Ramirez remains in custody in lieu of $100,000 bond.
With the close cooperation and assistance of District Attorney Vicki Patillo's Office, Child Protective Services, the Ranger Service, Norma's House and the Gonzales County Sheriff's Office, perpetrators of acts of violence and neglect against children will receive due justice.