Ramirez sentenced to 20 years for manslaughter

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A Shelby County probation officer described her pre-sentence interview with a Pelham Hispanic man as “one of the worst” she has ever done shortly before the man was sentenced Aug. 2 to 20 years in prison for a manslaughter charge.

Juan Ramirez

In late June, a Shelby County Circuit Court jury found 36-year-old Pelham resident Juan Ramirez guilty of one count of manslaughter for stabbing and killing 33-year-old Montevallo resident Wendy Louise Starnes.

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 police, Starnes was staying with Ramirez at the mobile home when the two got into a domestic dispute, which led to the stabbing. When police arrested Ramirez, the suspect gave officers “several dozen” false names, according to Pelham police Lt. Scott Tucker.

Although Ramirez was originally charged with one count of murder, a jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter during a four-day trial in June. Ramirez also has a previous conviction for an unlawful possession of a controlled substance charge.

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.”

A manslaughter charge can bring up to 30 years in prison, according to Alabama law.

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.”

During the Aug. 2 sentencing, Ramirez wore an orange Shelby County Jail jumpsuit, and was restrained with handcuffs and ankle shackles. Circuit Court Judge Hewitt Conwill presided over the sentencing.

During her testimony at the sentencing, Shelby County Probation and Parole Officer Erin Benford said her pre-sentence interview with Ramirez “didn’t go too well.”

“He didn’t seem to take it too seriously,” Benford said of the interview. “He kept making comments about how beautiful I was.

“I asked him his marital status, either single, married or divorced, and he said ‘I’m single, what about you?’” Benford added.

Benford also said Ramirez stood up and pulled up his shirt and later slightly lowered his pants when asked if he had any scars or tattoos.

“It was very inappropriate,” Benford said, before she told the court Ramirez showed “no remorse” for the crime.

Conwill also ordered Ramirez to pay $50 to the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund.