It took jurors less than 40 minutes to find Heriberto Ramirez guilty of the Valentine's Day 2011 murder of Alicia Ramirez, his wife of 26 years, in their Des Plaines area home while their youngest daughter sat watching TV in a nearby bedroom.
Ramirez, 50, stabbed Alicia 34 times during the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 2011, in their home in the Touhy Mobile Home Park north of O'Hare International Airport. Police found her lifeless body, with her face badly bruised, in a bathroom of the family's home.
A mother of three who frequently worked six days a week as a cook at the Avanti Cafe in Mount Prospect, Alicia Ramirez suffered wounds to her chest, abdomen, neck, arms and legs, the latter of which a medical examiner described as defensive wounds. Among the most serious was a knife blow that cracked her rib, punctured her lung and lacerated her aorta, a fatal injury that would have killed the 45-year-old within minutes.
Seven men and five women began deliberating about 2:50 p.m. Thursday after prosecutors delivered closing arguments recalling testimony from the couple's now 11-year-old daughter, whose panicked yet coherent 911 call prosecutors played in court Thursday.
During the brief conversation, the girl told the operator "my dad is hitting my mom." The sound of a man's voice followed, after which the call cut off.
Ramirez testified he doesn't know what happened that day, repeating "I don't remember" to prosecutors' questions, which Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Clarke dismissed as "ridiculous."
Ramirez did admit the man's voice on the 911 tape is his. He also stated he didn't sleep well and that he had been taking medication for depression, anxiety and panic attacks. He denied Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Andre's claim that Alicia had "kicked him out" of their bedroom and didn't want to be married to him anymore.
Ramirez corroborated statements from his youngest daughter, who testified Wednesday that she heard her parents arguing about the title to their home before her mother was attacked. Ramirez claimed he and Alicia had been discussing household and personal documents and that his wife had been upset. He told Cook County Assistant Public Defender Larry Kugler that he fell back asleep after the argument and woke up to find Cook County Sheriff's police at his door.
The daughter, whose name the Daily Herald is withholding to protect her privacy, described hearing her parents argue from where she sat in the master bedroom she shared with her mother. Through the open bedroom door, she said she saw her father back her mother into a bathroom near the bedroom of her older sister Karen, 21, who had already left for work. After hearing her mother yell "no" and "stop," the girl dialed 911. She said her father was "breathing rough" when he entered the bedroom a short time later and told her everything was OK.
Police encountered a breathless, perspiring Ramirez, who they placed under arrest after discovering Alicia Ramirez's body.
Andre painted a picture of a troubled marriage and an angry husband overpowering his defenseless wife during an impassioned cross-examination during which he questioned Ramirez about the force he exerted in striking his wife.
"You have to be real close and personal to (deliver) such a vicious wound," said Andre, adding, "how long after she collapsed was she still begging for her life?"
During closing arguments, Kugler reminded jurors that no DNA or blood evidence links his client to the murder and that Ramirez had no injuries suggesting a struggle had occurred.
"He doesn't remember. He could have made up a better story than that," Kugler said. "This case is as simple and straightforward as it gets," said Clarke, who explained the lack of blood evidence by pointing out that Alicia was wearing her work uniform, a vest and a down coat when she was attacked.
"It was so easy (the 11-year-old) figured it out," Clarke said. "It was so easy the police figured it out in a few minutes and put the cuffs on him."