The murder trial of Heriberto Ramirez began Wednesday in Rolling Meadows with testimony from his daughters, including the now 11-year-old who said she was "sitting there scared" during the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 2011, when her mother was killed in the couple's home near Des Plaines.
Ramirez, 50, is charged with the stabbing death of his wife Alicia Ramirez, 45, in the couple's Des Plaines area home at the Touhy Mobile Home Park, just north of O'Hare International Airport.
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The girl, who was 9 years old at the time, testified that her mother -- who worked six days a week as a cook at Avanti Cafe in Mount Prospect -- was preparing to leave for work about 5:30 a.m. when she and Heriberto began arguing about the title to the house.
The girl, whose name the Daily Herald is withholding to protect her privacy, entered the courtroom carrying a small stuffed animal and showed poise and self-control during hr testimony. She described hearing her parents argue from where she sat in the master bedroom she shared with her mother. Older sister Karen Ramirez, now 21, occupied the second bedroom but had already left for work. Heriberto Ramirez slept on the couch.
Karen Ramirez, who has custody of her sister, testified that her parents' relationship had changed before her mother's death and the two sometimes argued with raised voices.
The younger girl testified she watched through the open bedroom door as her father backed her mother into the bathroom.
"I was sitting there scared," said the girl. She testified she heard her mom yell "no" and "stop," at which point the girl said she dialed 911, then hung up when her father entered the bedroom and told her "everything is going to be OK and not to worry about anything." She described Heriberto Ramirez "breathing rough" when he entered the room.
The girl went on to describe hearing her father rummage through a toolbox and hearing running water. Ramirez then grabbed his keys and prepared to leave, she said, but was greeted by Cook County sheriff's police officers when he opened the door.
Ramirez told the officer that everything was OK, after which the girl told the officer "my mom was in the bathroom." The officer looked in the bathroom and returned telling the girl her mother was "seriously injured," at which point the other officer handcuffed Heriberto Ramirez, the girl said.
Cook County Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina testified that Alicia Ramirez suffered 34 stab wounds to her chest, abdomen, neck, arms and legs. They included wounds to her aorta, liver and lungs, which Cina testified would have killed her within minutes.
Under cross examination from Cook County Assistant Public Defender Larry Kugler, the girl admitted it was dark in the house and that she couldn't distinguish her father's face. She also said that she hung up the phone, not her father, and that he never threatened her. She further testified that she did not observe any blood on his clothes.
In his opening statement, Kugler reminded jurors that Ramirez is presumed innocent and told them that "your duty is to do justice."
"Mr. Ramirez has been charged with a terrible crime. That doesn't make him guilty," Kugler said as he urged jurors to put prejudice aside and only consider the evidence.
"This is a case about anger," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Clarke in his opening statement, "and how one man's anger led to the brutal stabbing and killing of Alicia Ramirez."
Testimony continues Thursday.