Theatrics at Ramos trial


Recorder News Staff

FONDA -- It was not the picture of William McDermott, who lay face-down on the floor in a pool of his own blood at his Amsterdam apartment. Nor was it the picture of Cheryl Goss, dead in a corner of the living room.

Rather it was the picture of black Nike sneakers that accused killer Ivan Ramos said set him off into a defiant outburst in Montgomery County Court Monday, in which he subsequently asked to be excused from viewing the disc.

State Police Inv. Eric Smith had just finished showing Ramos' attorney Mark Juda a compilation of photos he took of the March 2012 crime scene at 359 Locust Ave., where Goss and McDermott were stabbed to death. Juda said he hadn't watched Smith's compilation yet, and asked to, so he could determine if he had any objection to it being entered as evidence.

First, Judge Felix Catena excused the jury, and Smith quickly coursed through the disc. When he finished, Juda said he had nothing for the record, but Ramos asked to be heard.

He and Juda approached the bench with District Attorney James E. "Jed" Conboy. After exchanging whispers, Catena sat back, closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Apparently the testimony is disagreeable to Mr. Ramos, who indicated he'll create a disturbance ..." Catena said.

It would be Ramos' second outburst in as many days of the double homicide trial. In a court recess Friday, after a recording of a call between Ramos and his mother was played, Ramos cursed at Conboy and told him he "ain't got s---."

Ramos told Catena Monday he objected to the picture of sneakers recovered from his wife's home at 222 Woodrow Road because Amsterdam Police Det. Leon Pratt hadn't taken a photograph of them when he found them.

Pratt testified Friday he searched Patrina Ramos' home after she signed a consent order March 2. He saw the sneakers in the master bedroom, examined them with gloves on, and replaced them before notifying his supervisor.

Smith said he seized the shoes while executing a search warrant later that evening.

He also recovered pieces of rubber cut away from the soles.

Ramos attempted to further address Catena, who advised him to speak through Juda.

"It's my life, not his life. He don't care what happens to me," Ramos said, his voice getting louder.

"There's no verification it wasn't tampered with," Ramos continued of the shoes. "We're expected to go for word of mouth because he's a detective? I'm not going to sit here."

Ramos then advised Catena if he didn't excuse him from the proceedings while the disc was played, he'd create a disturbance in front of the jury.

"I will not sit here quietly," he yelled. "I'll object to it all the way out."

Catena overruled the objection, but Ramos was still dissatisfied and continued to say he would disrupt proceedings. Ramos' sister, Elvira, said "No you won't, Ivan," and Catena's patience grew thin.

"Time out," Catena yelled. "I'm controlling this trial -- not you."

Catena advised Ramos it wouldn't be in his best interest to be absent from the proceedings, but warned him if he continued to be disorderly, he may be dismissed.

"I'm not going to let the madness continue. ... You must want to wait for the outburst to happen," Ramos continued. "You think I'm joking. I can't sit here."

Catena then ordered Ramos to take a five-minute break from the courtroom to discuss the matter with Juda. Juda returned first and, then, so did a much calmer Ramos, who would eventually apologize to Catena.

"I do care, your honor," said Juda, who added he reminded his client that his absence from the court would have "a detrimental effect on what the jury perceives."

Then Smith's lengthy testimony started -- he was the only one to testify Monday, and Juda still has to cross-examine him today.

Smith reviewed the state police's forensic evidence collection at the crime scene, starting outside to photograph what was described as a distinct set of shoe prints in the fresh snow that led from McDermott's apartment.

The forensic unit tracked the prints 155 feet from the back of the Locust Avenue apartment to Wilbur Street. They featured a herringbone pattern, the same pattern evident in blood across the apartment, the same pattern on the shoes recovered at Patrina Ramos' home, Smith said.

Smith said the unit additionally swabbed spots of blood in the snow for testing, and recovered bloody paper tissues that trailed along with the prints.

The review then turned to the apartment building. Smith compiled a video recording of the scene in its initial state, before any of the evidence and bodies were recovered and removed.

The video started in the first floor hallway. From the front door, Smith hung a left, took a few steps, and when he made the final turn toward McDermott's apartment, bloodshed was quickly apparent.

Bright red blood streaked back toward McDermott's apartment door, consistent with something having been dragged through it, Smith said.

The streak continued all the way into the apartment, which was in apparent disarray. The kitchen stove was pulled away from the wall. The microwave was hanging off the counter, with a blood print on the side of the appliance that had a waffle-print pattern in it. Smith pointed out McDermott was wearing a green thermal shirt.

McDermott, 56, lay on the floor in the area that connected the kitchen and living room. His bloody hands were awkwardly turned up from underneath him, a cell phone and his empty wallet opened next to him. He was naked from the waist down, showing a gash below his left buttock and cuts all over his legs.

Goss was curled into a corner, her face turned up toward the ceiling, her eyes open. Her pants were concentrated in blood.

The victims' kin sobbed as the video played. Elvira Ramos also cried.

In between the victims, a white winter coat was on the floor, just one piece of clothing and personal items strewn about the apartment. Several were collected for evidence, because of the bloody shoe prints on them. Smith said Goss was wearing white socks, while McDermott had one sock on and one bare foot.

More bloody paper tissues were found in the apartment, too, including in McDermott's bedroom dresser drawer, where a crack pipe that had a small blood spot was recovered.

The bedroom was also in chaos. Pieces of the door molding were still attached to the door from when it had been forced open. There was blood inside the closet, which Smith said he found closed with a laundry basket and pillow in front of it.

A long piece of molding was found across the room, under clothes. It had shoe prints on it.

"That indicates that at some point after the blood letting, things were moved," Smith said.

Because there was so much blood, Smith said the search for "friction skin evidence," like finger and palm prints, used a chemical agent that turned blood into a violet color.

Smith said he was able to locate several prints in blood -- one on a table in the kitchen, one on a stool rung.

Based on his expertise, Smith said he could match both to prints of Ramos' hands he attained in an August search warrant.

Roughly 50 exhibits from the state police's collection of the scene were entered into evidence Monday. Subsequent testimony from state police lab experts will analyze DNA from the samples, Conboy indicated.