An Oxnard woman accused of drunken driving in an accident that killed her 17-year-old daughter has been charged with murder.
Judith Ramirez, 37, stood inside a detention cell in the courtroom Friday as prosecutor Tate McCallister handed her a grand jury indictment through the metal bars. The indictment had just been unsealed by a judge.
Ramirez’s lawyer, Rebekah Mathis of the Public Defender’s Office, entered not-guilty pleas to the new charges of murder and child endangerment listed on the indictment.
Ramirez is charged with killing her daughter, Victoria Castro-Ramirez, a senior at Pacifica High School in Oxnard. She died at the scene of a vehicle crash May 29 near Saticoy.
Ramirez is being held in county jail in lieu of $280,000 bail.
Outside the courtroom Friday, Mathis said she was upset and called the murder charge unwarranted. “Frankly, I think it is outrageous,” Mathis said. Ramirez was previously charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
In an interview, McCallister said it isn’t the first time a defendant facing gross vehicular manslaughter was later charged with murder.
Mathis said the facts will be brought to light in court, including the “very serious road conditions” on the night of the incident. She declined to elaborate.
“Who Judy is as a person will come out,” Mathis added. “It is probably the saddest case I’ve ever seen ... and the fact that the district attorney has chosen to go this route is just extremely upsetting to Ms. Ramirez and to myself.
“This is a woman who is loved in the community, clearly made some mistakes in her life. But this is devastating for the entire family,” said Mathis.
Investigators with the California Highway Patrol said Ramirez was driving northbound on Vineyard Avenue in Oxnard when she lost control about 9 p.m. May 29. Her sport utility vehicle went off the road on a slight curve into a paved drainage ditch and rolled over, striking a chain-link fence and a small bridge leading to a strawberry field.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Cheryl Temple had said a DUI defendant can be charged with murder for killing somebody while causing an accident. She said the courts advise DUI defendants that driving under the influence is “an inherently dangerous act.”
“And under an implied malice theory of murder, you can be charged with murder for killing somebody while committing an inherently dangerous act,” she said. “You don’t even have to intend to kill somebody. But if you engage in conduct that you know is so reckless and so dangerous and somebody dies, you can be on the hook for murder. ”
The state Department of Motor Vehicles reported that Ramirez’s driving privileges were suspended in 2004 and 2007 for driving under the influence of alcohol. Her privileges were suspended again in 2008 for failing to appear in court on the drunken driving charge from the previous year. None of the suspensions were cleared, according to the DMV.
She pleaded guilty in December 2004 to a misdemeanor of driving with a blood alcohol level of at least 0.08 of a percent, court records show. She was fined $1,748, then released on probation and ordered to spend two days in jail.
She failed to appear in court and a warrant was issued for her arrest for allegedly violating her probation when she was cited again on suspicion of drunken driving in 2007. She paid numerous fines but never appeared in court, and the warrant remained outstanding until she was arrested following the fatal crash.