Caldwell teen gets extended treatment diversion in stabbing case

But Jeremiah Ramirez could still serve up to 15 years for attacking his mother.

kterhune@idahostatesman.comJune 17, 2013 

In court Monday, Jeremiah Ramirez’s mother, Mildred Nava Ramirez, wept as she pleaded with the judge not to impose a lengthy prison sentence.

"I don’t want him to be like the other sons that mothers cry for," Mildred Ramirez said.

The younger Ramirez, now 18, could still serve up to 15 years in prison for aggravated battery. But 3rd District Judge Thomas Ryan diverted him into a prison-based treatment program — possibly until Ramirez’s 21st birthday — that can lead to early release on probation if successfully completed.

The judge warned that he would likely order Ramirez to finish the prison sentence after the period ended. If not released after the treatment program is over, Ramirez would first be eligible for parole after 7 1/2 years.

"We as human beings have not figured out how to fix mental health," Ryan said.

Jeremiah Ramirez was 17 when prosecutors say he attempted to smother his mother in her Caldwell home, then stabbed her 19 times. The woman suffered stab wounds to her arm, chest and head before she was able to dial 911 for help. Officers broke down the door and arrested Jeremiah Ramirez at gunpoint.

Ramirez, who has a history of mental illness including schizophrenic and bipolar symptoms, told police that he heard voices telling him to kill his mother. The teenager had been smoking synthetic marijuana, also known as spice, the night of the attack.

He was originally charged with attempted murder, but that was later amended to aggravated battery with a weapons enhancement. He pleaded guilty to the battery charge in a deal that dropped the enhancement.

An attempted murder charge would have required prosecutors to prove that Ramirez had intended to kill his mother, the Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office previously said.

Mildred Ramirez asked Ryan to help her son get mental health treatment rather than shelve him in a cell.

"I feel he should not be placed in a prison cell to let time tick away," she said. "There has to be a place other than prison for him to get help."

Prosecutors agreed that Jeremiah Ramirez’s mental health played a major role in the attack, calling it "the big issue" in the case.

But prosecutors noted a court-ordered psychological evaluation that stated Ramirez was likely to commit more violent crimes. The doctor who tested the teen diagnosed him with antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, and classified him as a high risk to reoffend.

It was too risky for Ramirez to be out in the community, prosecutors said. Even his mother was unwilling to let her son live with her again if he was released.

Mildred Ramirez spoke of her fear after the attack.

"I now have scars for life," she said. "What if I would have died that night?"

Even now, Mildred Ramirez cannot fall asleep without the TV on. Her mind is consumed with worry, she said, both for herself and for her son.

"He is still my child," she said. "I hurt and he hurts. No matter what happened, I still love him."

Prosecutors asked the judge for a blended sentence that would allow Jeremiah Ramirez to remain in the juvenile justice system with better access to mental health resources.

They recommended a sentence of 10 years, with the possibility of parole after five. The sentence could be reexamined when he turned 21, prosecutors said.

Jeremiah Ramirez’s defense attorney asked the judge for a lesser sentence, alleging childhood abuse at the hands of his father and ongoing mental health issues.

The defense suggested a sentence of 10 years, with parole possible after 2 1/2, citing the teenager’s remorse over the attack and the limited resources that would be available to him in prison.

In an emotional statement, Jeremiah Ramirez apologized to his mother and the court for the attack.

"There’s no excuses for what I did," he said. "I'm humiliated, ashamed. I grew up to be someone I never wanted to be."

Ramirez said he had been trying to better himself during his incarceration, and was learning better coping skills. He was also working towards his GED, his lawyer said.

But the teenager said he would accept any sentence Ryan handed down.

"I deserve to be in prison," Ramirez said. "I don’t feel comfortable with myself, not right now."

The judge acknowledged that the case was a difficult one.

Ramirez clearly needed help. But Ryan also said that he was reluctant to release him into society after such a violent offense.

"It's frankly a miracle that Ms. Ramirez was able to give the court a statement today," Ryan said.

Katie Terhune: 377-6219

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