Pelham man found guilty of manslaughter

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A Pelham man is awaiting an Aug. 2 sentencing in the Shelby County Circuit Court after he was found guilty of one count of manslaughter related to the March 2009 death of 33-year-old Montevallo resident Wendy Louise Starnes.

Juan Ramirez

Juan Ramirez, a 36-year-old Pelham resident, was originally charged with one count of murder, but a jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter on June 23. The trial lasted four days.

Pelham police officers arrested Ramirez in the early morning hours of March 11, 2009, after they received a domestic dispute call at Ramirez’ mobile home residence at 126A Oliver St., which is behind the Mr. Transmission business off U.S. 31 in the southern end of the city.

When officers arrived on the scene, they found Starnes dead, and transported Ramirez to the hospital to be treated for injuries. After Ramirez was treated, he was arrested and charged with one count of murder.

According to Pelham police Lt. Scott Tucker, Starnes was staying with Ramirez at the mobile home when the death occurred. When police arrested Ramirez, the suspect gave officers “several dozen” false names, Tucker said.

“The victim was known to him in this case. She was living with him,” said Pelham police Capt. Larry Palmer. “They got into an argument, and he stabbed her.”

After Ramirez was arrested, he was transported to the Shelby County Jail, where he remains on a $500,000 bond.

According to Alabama law, a person is guilty of manslaughter if they cause the death of another person “due to a sudden heat of passion caused by provocation by law, and before a reasonable time for the passion to cool and for reason to reassert itself.”

In order for a person to be found guilty of murder, a jury must find a defendant intentionally caused the death of another person, caused a person’s death while committing or attempting to commit another felony or caused a person to die by “manifesting an extreme indifference to human life.”

“He claimed self-defense. He said that she came at him with a knife before he stabbed her,” Palmer said.

According to Alabama law, a manslaughter conviction could bring up to 30 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines.