Texan who led police to murder victim loses appeal
A man condemned for the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old woman whose
remains were found west of San Antonio almost two years after she vanished
lost an appeal of his conviction and death sentence at the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals on Wednesday.
Ramiro Gonzales, 26, had received two life sentences for the abduction and
rape of another woman in Bandera County and was awaiting transfer to
prison when he told authorities in October 2002 he knew where they could
find Bridget Townsend. She was reported missing from her Bandera County
home in January 2001.
He led them to her skeletal remains in a remote area of his family's ranch
in adjacent Medina County and confessed to robbing, raping and killing the
Lawyers for Gonzales had raised 10 error points from his 2006 trial in
Hondo, about 40 miles west of San Antonio, including claims that his
confession was not sufficiently corroborated by independent evidence. They
also challenged testimony from a forensic psychiatrist who told jurors
Gonzales would be a continuing threat, one of the questions a jury must
decide when considering a death sentence.
Other challenges were raised about the propriety of instructions the trial
judge gave to the jury.
One appeals court judge, Paul Womack, dissented from the court majority
saying he believed there should have been more research about the
reliability of predicting behavior "before we accept an opinion that a
capital murderer will be dangerous even in prison."
Another judge, Cheryl Johnson, joined him in his dissent. The other 7
judges, however, agreed the psychiatrist's testimony was proper under
Gonzales, a 7th-grade dropout who built fences and also worked as a
welder, led authorities to a remote hillside where they found a human
skull and other bones that had been scattered by animals. They also found
jewelry and clothing belonging to Townsend.
Gonzales first told deputies he let Mexican Mafia members use the ranch
after they told him they needed a spot to dispose a body. Then he changed
his story to say he was there when others killed Townsend.
He subsequently told a Texas Ranger details that were consistent with the
evidence gathered during the investigation, that he went to his drug
supplier's house to steal cocaine because he knew the man's girlfriend,
Townsend, was there alone at the time. He said he abducted Townsend after
taking some money and drugs from the house and after she tried to call her
boyfriend, drove her to his family's ranch, retrieved a high-caliber deer
rifle and drove her to the spot where her remains were found.
He said the frightened woman offered him money, drugs or sex if he
wouldn't hurt her. He had sex with her, then shot her and went home. Her
boyfriend later called police to report her missing.
At his trial, the woman Gonzales had been convicted of abducting and
raping told jurors she believed she also would have been killed if she
hadn't been able to escape from a cabin where he left her bound with tape.
His trial lawyers blamed his behavior on childhood neglect, drugs and
Gonzales does not have an execution date. He still has federal appeals he
(source: Dallas Morning News)