Trial begins for couple in case of child starvation

Date: 2009-02-01

SONNY LONG

GONZALES - Jury selection in the murder trial of Steve and Bettie Ramirez cq begins today in the district courtroom of the Gonzales County Courthouse.

The couple is charged with murder, injury to a child, unlawful restraint and endangering a child in connection with the death of adopted daughter Crystal Ramirez, cq 8, in August 2007. Law enforcement officials believe Crystal cq was bound, beaten and starved.

"We will see how far we get with jury selection, then possibly have opening statements. There will be no testimony from witnesses before Tuesday," said Carrie Moy, cq Gonzales County assistant district attorney who is heading the prosecution.

The couple will be tried together with Steve Ramirez, cq 65, represented by Robert Caine cq and Bettie Ramirez, cq 59, represented by Nate Stark, cq both Austin attorneys. District 25 Judge W.C. Kirkendall cq will preside over the trial. Both Steve and Bettie Ramirez cq have pleaded not guilty.

Crystal cq suffered from malnutrition and weighed only 45 pounds at the time of her death. She also suffered "at least 10 impact areas to the head" causing bleeding between the skull and the brain, according to a report from Travis County Medical Examiner David Dolinak. cq

The couple was also indicted for injury to a child for Crystal cq and her sister, 10 at the time. A third child in the Ramirez cq h cqome, a boy then 7, showed no signs of abuse, according to reports. The children had been with the Ramirezes cq since 2001 when they were placed in foster care.

According to the injury to a child arrest warrant affidavit, Crystal cq and her 10-year-old sister were "bound to their bed and would have to remain in their room for days or more as punishment."

The information was obtained from the surviving 10-year-old who was interviewed by Dr. Nancy Kellogg, cq an expert in the area of child abuse and starvation from the Christus Santa Rosa Children's Hospital, Center for Miracles, in San Antonio.

Kellogg, cq according to the affidavit prepared by Texas Ranger Dewayne Goll, cq indicated that the 10-year-old was "starved to the point of malnutrition" and "hit and restrained abusively consistent with torture."

According to the affidavit, the 10-year-old told Kellogg cq that her parents "would put masking tape and sometimes the fiberglass tape in their (Crystal cq and the 10-year-old's) mouths and they would have to bite down." The parents "would put duct tape over that. When they would pull it off hard ... hair would come out and there would be blood on the tape."

The 10-year-old also told Kellogg that the girls "would be taped over the tops of their heads and around their chins because if they were thirsty or hungry or had to 'go potty,' (the parents) did not want the girls calling them," according to the affidavit.

The older sister also reported that both parents would hit the girls as punishment, according to the affidavit.

After searching the Ramirez cq home, law enforcement officers' discoveries substantiated the 10-year-old's allegations, according to the affidavit. Bindings (tape) were found attached to folding lawn chairs that were used as beds for the girls. A large bell was attached to the girls' bedroom door, which had a handle installed on it that locked from the outside, according to the affidavit.

Injuries to both girls were also observed and documented.

The couple spent about six months in the Gonzales County jail before District Judge Dwight E. Peschel, cq against the state's recommendation, lowered their bail to $75,000 each. The bail had been $350,000 on Steve Ramirez cq and $300,000 on Bettie Ramirez.

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