(TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - A Cherokee County jury yesterday found Jose Diaz Perez, 51, of Jacksonville guilty of murder and sentenced him to 50 years in prison for killing Martha Caselin Ramirez on March 17, 2012.
The jury of nine women and three men learned Perez had been dating Ms. Ramirez until approximately two weeks prior to her murder when she left him due to his excessive drinking and controlling behavior.
Jurors heard testimony that the defendant went to Ms. Ramirez's home, which she shared with her three sons. The evidence showed that just after 1 a.m., the defendant fired his 9 mm semi-automatic pistol at Ms. Ramirez three times while she sat in his truck. Ms. Ramirez was hit twice in the chest, one bullet piercing her heart, lung and kidney. After hearing the gunshots, her son, Daniel, went to the door of the residence looking for his mother. Statements and testimony by the defendant revealed the defendant drove through Jacksonville to land he owned off of CR 4201, where he dumped Ms. Ramirez's body, along with her clothing and personal effects.
When asked by Cherokee County Sherriff's Office Detective Gina Battley if Ms. Ramirez was still breathing when he dumped her on his property, the defendant replied, "I don't know. I really don't." The defendant also gave detectives several statements trying to blame his victim for the murder, claiming she attacked him first and also claiming she practiced witchcraft on him. Both statements he admitted were lies while testifying.
Because the defendant also claimed he accidentally shot Ms. Ramirez, the jury heard testimony from the defendant's ex-wife, Barbara Ward. Ms. Ward told the jury she was still married to the defendant in January, 1986 but had left him because he was controlling and treated her children poorly. Testimony revealed the defendant visited Ms. Ward one night at her parent's home and shot her in the jaw, right shoulder and right arm when she refused to return to him. The facts of that shooting were eerily similar to the facts in the current murder case, with the exception that Ms. Ward refused to get in the defendant's car. The defendant's explanation to the judge was that he didn't know that his then wife had been shot. He claimed to be shooting beside her because she yelled at him and that, "I guess she just ran into the bullets. … I emptied the gun out so most likely she ran into the bullets."
In her closing statements to the jury, District Attorney Rachel L. Patton said, "To the defendant, Martha Ramirez became disposable, no longer human once she rejected him. He didn't care that he was ripping her out of the lives of her children and grandchildren."
D.A. Patton noted, "The jury did care and rejected Jose Perez's absurd attempts to deceive everyone by finding him guilty of murder within 35 minutes and handing down a 50-year sentence. This sends a strong message that domestic violence will not be tolerated and victims' voices will be heard."
The six-day trial was heard before Judge Bascom Bentley III. District Attorney Rachel L. Patton, with the assistance of Deborah D. Dictson, Assistant District Attorney prosecuted the case. Jacksonville defense attorney Chris Day represented the defendant.