Parents arrested following death of adopted girl: 8-year-old Belmont girl's siblings in protective custody.

Date: 2007-08-28

Byline: Sonny Long

Aug. 28--GONZALES -- The adopted 8-year-old daughter of a Belmont couple is dead, her siblings in protective custody, and the parents in jail. Chrystal Ramirez died Thursday afternoon in western Gonzales County following what her parents said was an "accident" when she fell off a trampoline.

The parents were arrested Friday morning and remain jailed, charged with injury to a child and other charges may be filed, said Gonzales County Sheriff Glen Sachtleben. Rubin Stephen Ramirez, 62, is being held in lieu of $150,000 bond, and Bettie Ramirez, 58, is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

The other children in the household, ages 7 and 10, are in the custody of Child Protective Services.

"There are signs of abuse and neglect on the children," the sheriff said. " We have all the elements of an injury to a child charge. Until we get the complete medical examiner's report, we won't decide on what the additional charges might be."

On Thursday afternoon, Gonzales Emergency Services personnel responded to a call of a non-responsive child being transported to the Belmont Fire Station, according to a news release from the Sheriff's Office. EMS notified law enforcement after the child was unable to be resuscitated.

Sachtleben, Chief Deputy Dennis Richter, and Deputy Felton Law responded and "observations...indicated something seriously amiss," according to the release.

"When they pulled back the sheet and I saw the child, it was obvious this was something bad," said the sheriff on Monday. "There was no doubt in my mind something terrible had happened, but not from falling off a trampoline. Let's just say, she was extremely underweight for a child her age." The sheriff stopped short of saying the child was malnourished, but added that the complete medical examiner's report should reveal specifics about her condition.

Gonzales County Justice of the Peace Don Setliff ordered an autopsy and the child was taken to the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office.

The other children were taken to Norma's House, a children's advocacy center in Gonzales, where specialists talked to the children to find out what happened.

The parents were later questioned at the sheriff's office with the assistance of district attorney's investigator Ted Crow and Texas Ranger Dwayne Goll.

Sonny Long is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-275-6319 or cueroadv@vicad.com, or comment on this story here.

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