John Henry Ramirez, 38, was executed by lethal injection on 5 October 2022 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder and robbery of a man in a parking lot.
In July 2004, Christina Chavez, 24, and Angela Rodriguez, 30, who lived together in San Antonio, traveled to Corpus Christi to visit Rodriguez's family for the weekend. When Rodriguez's friend, John Ramirez, 20, came over, she snuck him into her mother's house because her mother did not want him there. Ramirez was showing off a ridged knife. Rodriguez's mother kicked him out when she discovered him, but he came back later that day with Rodriguez's sister, Roberta Garcia. Later, Rodriguez, Chavez, and Ramirez went to Rodriguez's friend's house while Garcia stayed at her mother's. The three of them drank and used drugs together for three or four days. They pawned things for money to buy drugs.
Chavez testified that when she, Rodriguez, and Ramirez ran out of drugs and money, they decided to grab someone and take his money. They did not plan to hurt anyone, and only Ramirez had a weapon. They got into two maroon vans - Chavez drove one, with Rodriguez as a passenger, and Ramirez drove the other.
Lydia Salinas managed the Times Market convenience store in Corpus Christi. On Monday, 19 July 2004, she arrived at work around 6:00 p.m. She was scheduled to work until the midnight closing time with employee Pablo Castro, 46. Castro told Salinas that he only had a dollar, so she arranged for her sister-in-law to bring dinner for both of them into the store. When she did, the sister-in-law informed Salinas that there was a van parked in the area where she usually parked. After she left, Salinas and Castro ate dinner. A short time later, a young woman came into the store to use the restroom. Salinas later identified the woman as Angela Rodriguez. As closing time approached, Castro told Salinas that he was going outside to empty the trash.
Chavez testified that she and Ramirez pulled their vans into the parking lot of the Times Market and saw a man carrying a box to the dumpster. Rodriguez got out of the van Chavez was driving, spoke to the man, then got back in. Chavez then saw Ramirez fighting with the man. She told Rodriguez, who got back out.
Chavez testified that Ramirez was using the knife he had been showing off earlier to stab the man until he fell to his knees. She said that Rodriguez did not join in the fight, but instead tried to stop Ramirez. After the man fell back, Ramirez pointed to Rodriguez, and she went through the man's pockets. When Rodriguez came back to the van, she dropped $1.25 onto the console. Both Ramirez and Rodriguez had blood on them, so they found a place to rinse off.
Mariano Cervantes testified that he and Kashif Butt drove to the car wash next to Times Market after 11:00 p.m. They noticed a fight occurring in the parking lot of the convenience store. Cervantes saw a young man and a woman standing on either side of an "older gentleman" and hitting him. The older man looked like he was trying to get out of the way.
Cervantes and Butt went over to help. The man fell to the ground, and the two assailants got into separate vans and drove away. Cervantes testified that he had not seen a knife during the fight, but when the victim tilted his head back, he could see a large, bloody gash on his throat. The victim was conscious, gurgling and spitting out blood, when Cervantes first tried to talk to him, but he soon closed his eyes and stopped responding.
Kashif Butt testified that he and Cervantes saw the altercation in the parking lot. The man and woman were punching and kicking a man in his 40s, who was trying to block their blows. They continued to punch and kick him after he fell. Eventually, they stopped, went through his pockets, pulled something out, and left in a red Ford van where a driver was waiting. To Butt's recollection, there was a second van, but both assailants left in the red van with the waiting driver, and he did not remember what happened to the second van. Butt saw that the victim was bleeding badly from his throat.
While Salinas was counting money at the cash register, a girl came in and told her there was a man lying in the parking lot, bleeding. Salinas assumed Castro had come back inside from emptying the trash and was in the back of the store, so she called out to him to let him know she was going outside. She stepped out, saw the man in the parking lot, came back inside, and dialed 9-1-1. She then yelled for Castro to come to the front of the store because she was going outside again. She went out and saw that the bleeding man was Castro. She screamed and started toward him, but Cervantes, Butt, and a neighbor held her back and told her that he was dead.
Officer Mike Wenzel was the first responder to Salinas's 9-1-1 call. He testified that when he arrived at Times Market, the victim was lying in a pool of blood. He had been stabbed in the neck and his throat had been slashed. He was not breathing or bleeding. Wenzel got descriptions of the assailants from Cervantes and Butt and a description from Salinas of the woman who came in to use the restroom, who was believed to be the female assailant. Wenzel concluded that the suspects fled in two red vans, with the woman getting into the passenger side of one van and the man getting into the driver's seat of the other.
Chavez testified that after killing Castro and taking $1.25 from him, she, Rodriguez, and Ramirez still did not have money for drugs, so they committed one aggravated robbery and attempted to commit another. She stated that she waited in the van while Ramirez and Rodriguez committed the crimes. After the robbery, Rodriguez told her to get in Ramirez's van, and from that point on, they rode together in one van. They were spotted by police while driving away from the attempted robbery, and a chase ensued, but they got away. Ramirez drove the van into a lot that was overgrown with bushes and tall grass. The three got out and fled on foot. Chavez and Rodriguez were soon arrested, but Ramirez escaped.
April Metting testified that she was waiting in line in her vehicle in the drive-through of a fast-food restaurant when a young woman walked up to the front of her car and asked to use her cell phone. The woman pointed to blood stains on her shirt and said she had been in a fight. While her attention was on the woman, a man came up behind her and reached into her open window with a ridged knife. He grabbed her by the back of her neck, held the knife to her throat, and demanded money. Metting testified that she asked them not to do this in front of her two-year-old son, who was sitting in the back seat, but the man said, "Shut up, bitch." The woman told her to shut up and give them her purse. She gave the man her money and purse, and the two of them got into a van with another woman and left. Metting testified that she saw two vans parked nearby, but the suspects left in only one of them.
Ruby Hinojosa testified to a similar incident in a fast-food drive-through. A maroon van pulled up next to her, and a woman asked to use her cell phone. While they were talking, a man appeared at her window, put a serrated knife to her neck, and demanded money. Hinojosa was able to lean away from the knife and roll up her window. The man went around to her passenger side window and began banging on the glass with his knife. She backed up her car, and the suspects got into the van and left. Hinojosa subsequently identified the man in a photo lineup as John Ramirez.
Officer James Gray testified that as he and his partner were heading toward the scene of the attempted robbery, they passed a red van matching the general description of the suspect vehicle. They shined a spotlight into the van and saw a man and woman in the front. They made a U-turn, followed the van, and turned on their lights to instruct the driver to pull over. Gray testified that the van pulled over and stopped, but as soon as he stepped out of his patrol vehicle, the van drove away. They followed, but eventually lost sight of the speeding van on the north side of town.
Officer Michael Frakes testified that he was searching the area where the van had last been seen. While he was driving down a dark street, he spotted the flash of a red reflector and found the red van. Aware that the suspects might be dangerous, he turned off his spotlight and called for assistance. After another officer arrived, Frakes approached the van and found it empty, but observed that the engine was still hot.
Officer Ralph Vasquez testified that when he learned that the van had been found, he decided to circle around the brushy area where it was found to look for suspects. He and another officer found Rodriguez and Chavez and arrested them. Their clothes were soiled and bloody.
Roberta Garcia testified that during the weekend before the murder, she drank and took drugs with the three suspects at her mother's house. Ramirez showed her his knife, which had ridges on one side. She testified that after midnight on the 20th, Ramirez showed up out of breath and covered in grass and dirt. He said they had stabbed someone and that the police were after him. He had a big gash on his right hand, which was bleeding heavily. He said he did not know where Rodriguez was and he ran away when Garcia told him to leave.
April Metting's wallet and credit card were recovered from the van that was stopped in the tall grass. Blood samples were taken from the driver's-side door handle, steering wheel, gear shift lever, and from items inside the van including a T-shirt and a vodka bottle. DNA from some of the samples was matched to Pablo Castro. Castro's DNA was also found on an armrest inside the van that was abandoned after the robbery of Metting and on the jeans that Rodriguez was wearing at the time of her arrest.
The medical examiner testified that there were 29 sharp-object wounds on Castro's body, including his head, neck, shoulders, back, forearm, and hand. There was also blunt force trauma on his face and neck, as if he had been punched or kicked.
Ramirez evaded arrest for four years. He spent time in Mexico and became a father. He eventually returned to Texas with his family and was arrested near the border city of Brownsville on 20 February 2008.
Ramirez had court martial convictions while with the U.S. Marines for being absent without leave for 163 days, underage drinking, drunk and disorderly conduct, and speaking disrespectfully to a non-commissioned officer. Within a month of his discharge, he was arrested for marijuana possession and unlawfully carrying a weapon. He was given nine months of probation for the weapon charge.
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