Santa Paula Times

Arrest made in double homicide

November 06, 2002
Teenage boy from Las Pasadas neighborhood arrested for murder
Santa Paula Police Department

Santa Paula Police Chief Bob Gonzales addresses the media, outside the Santa Paula Police Station last Friday evening. Chief Gonzales notified the media at the press conference that suspects had been arrested in the muder of John Ramirez Jr. and Joann Wotkyns. Photo by Don Johnson

By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesIt’s been a double shock for the residents of the Las Pasadas neighborhood on the city’s west-end: first they had to contend with the brutal bludgeoning death of a married couple living on a quiet cul-de-sac. And on Saturday, they awoke to the news that another neighbor, a 16-year-old boy, had been arrested as a suspect. A 17-year-old youth was also arrested on an unrelated drug possession charge and a third, also 17, is being investigated.The probable motive, that the flashy special edition car owned by one of the victims was the “trophy” that led to their deaths, is beyond the comprehension of the entire Santa Paula community.SPPD Chief Bob Gonzales announced that the 16-year-old boy, who lives on the opposite end of the upscale development, was arrested Friday morning after investigators found evidence linking him to murder of Joann Wotkyns-Ramirez, 55, and her 59-year-old husband, John A. Ramirez Jr.The couple appeared to have been killed between 10 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20th - when John Ramirez sent a friend an e-mail - and early Monday morning on Oct. 21st.Their bodies were discovered at about 9 p.m. when police responded to their two-story Mediterranean-style home on Corte La Brisa after being notified by a relative that the couple, who had worked at Camarillo-based Imation for decades, had failed to arrive and had not called-in.“The investigation is ongoing,” said Chief Gonzales on Friday, about eight hours after SPPD and District Attorney’s Office investigators served the warrants on the three residences. “At one we found evidence that we believe is linked to the homicides,” that led to the arrest of the main suspect.Although a motive has not been determined and the unnamed 16-year-old suspect has not been cooperating with investigators, Chief Gonzales said acquiring Wotkyns-Ramirez’s distinctive 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo could be the reason the couple was murdered. “He was after the car, that was the trophy,” found in the Kmart parking lot on Faulkner Road about an hour after the bodies were discovered. Kmart is about a mile’s drive from the Las Pasadas neighborhood, much closer on foot if cutting through a vacant field.Early on in the investigation, SPPD investigators asked for public help. Someone had been driving Wotkyns-Ramirez’s vehicle, a 2001 special edition black Monte Carlo, with a decorative silver checkerboard design on each side and a white, Tasmanian Devil cartoon decal on the trunk. The car had been ticketed at the Santa Paula West Mobile Home Park - opposite Las Pasadas - for illegal parking by the resident manager on Monday afternoon.
The suspect, who Chief Gonzales said is not affiliated with a gang, might have ditched the car in the Kmart parking lot around the time that the bodies were discovered, knowing that the “jig was up. . .”People responded to the appeal for help, calling in sightings of the vehicle “in Ventura, around Santa Paula,” and in the neighborhoods of Las Pasadas.The 16-year-old juvenile and his companions became suspects four days before the warrants were served and Chief Gonzales said he anticipates further arrests. DNA taken from the suspect is being analyzed to see if it is a match to evidence found at the crime scene, he added.“There are two schools of thought; that the suspect knew the couple and was mad at them for some reason, or just wanted the car,” and pulled the keys - but not the wallet - out of Wotkyns-Ramirez’s purse, found downstairs in the home.The suspect, who reportedly attends a local continuation high school, will be arraigned Monday in Juvenile Court. Chief Gonzales said he will ask prosecutors to charge the boy as an adult.“This is the worst homicide I’ve seen in 30 years,” said Chief Gonzales. “We have two adults who were preparing to go to sleep and then someone came in and viciously attacked them. It doesn’t add up, it doesn’t make sense. . .”