As she sat in a jail cell for nearly 15 years, Elizabeth Ramirez continued to profess her innocence. Accused, along with three friends, of molesting her very own nieces, she was found guilty and sentenced to 16 to 37 1/2 years in prison. Never losing hope, it seems her prayers for release may be coming true as one of the alleged victims has recanted her story.
“I want my aunt and her friends out of prison,” Stephanie, 25, told a reporter. “Whatever it takes to get them out I'm going to do. I can't live my life knowing that four women are sleeping in a cage because of me.” If she is now telling the truth, she has done a horrible, almost unforgivable thing to those poor women, but there are other victims of this lie too.
In 1984, the girls, then 7 and 9, accused their 20-year-old aunt, Kristie Mayhugh, Anna Vasquez, and Cassandra Rivera of a sick, orgy-like assault. They said the woman were drunk and high off pot as they held down their little wrists and ankles and repeatedly violated them. "They painted us as monsters," Ramirez has said. It was a story police, prosecutors, the community, and even some family members believed. And why shouldn't they.
As a mom, I would believe my kid straight away. You know, I even turn a leery eye to adults my son doesn't like or seems to be uncomfortable around. So if he were to tell me something that horrific, I would never doubt him. I would want the person's head on a stick.
It's not just parents. As adults -- we believe children when it comes to charges of abuse, molestation, and rape. But here, an entire community and judicial system may have been fooled. All these years later, an adult Stephanie says the visit with her aunt that day was actually uneventful. Her sister has yet to recant the story, so it's unclear whether the convicted woman will be formally exonerated. For their part, however, the inmates say they are just happy the truth is finally coming out.
A story like this just turns my stomach. I feel for everyone involved, especially those innocent people. Still, I would never doubt my child and any other for that matter. Our instinct is to protect, not question. But the scary truth is that instinct can be used to ultimately betray us. What do we do then?
Does this case shock or anger you?
Image via Ken_Mayer/Flickr