The night Vonsell Ramirez died was filled with chaos, yelling and a frantic 911 call, witnesses described during testimony Wednesday.
The prosecution continued presenting its case during the second day of testimony for the capital murder trial of Raheem Davon Jones, 22, who is accused of murdering Ramirez, 18, with a beer bottle on June 8, 2016. Jones is one of three people accused of murdering Ramirez. The other defendants are Braylen Wayne Snell and Marissa Nicole Martinez.
Jurors relived the night’s chaos through first-hand witness accounts, 911 calls and police body camera footage.
Special Victoria County prosecutor Edward Wilkinson called eight witnesses to the stand to share their eyewitness accounts on the night Ramirez died.
I’m back at the Victoria County Courthouse covering day 2 of the capiital murder trial of Raheem Jones. The prosecution continues presenting its case. Be sure to follow @Vicadvocate for more updates pic.twitter.com/uQSpFVxeSL— Samantha Douty (@SamanthaDouty) September 25, 2019
Cyncere Parker, 19, of Houston, was with Ramirez and his friends most of the night of June 7 before the early morning altercation. She said the night began with a group of friends gathered at a Victoria Dairy Queen. There, Ramirez planned a transaction with the occupants of a red pickup.
“We were there to sell narcotics,” Parker testified.
Later, they planned a second drug buy, and Ramirez suggested meeting at his home on Booker Street.
Once the group was at Ramirez’s home, he collected $130 worth of Xanax and marijuana that Jones and his friends requested, Parker said.
Parker said the group including herself, Ramirez and 19-year-old Jordan Brooks, Ramirez’s younger brother met with Jones on the street in front of the residence. Parked down the street was the same red pickup.
They met near the driveway where earlier that evening, Brooks testified, he had smoked marijuana with Parker. He told defense attorney Micah Hatley, when asked, that his brother was probably under the influence and took a “bar,” or Xanax, earlier.
Ramirez and Jones grabbed each others hand to switch money for narcotics when Jones pulled back his hand before Ramirez could grab the money, Parker said. Jones then open-palm slapped Ramirez.
“It took (Ramirez) a second to realize he got hit, but Jordan was already posted up to fight,” Parker testified. “Once (Ramirez) realized Raheem didn’t give him the money, he motioned as if he wanted to fight.”
Ramirez then threw a punch at Jones with Brooks alongside him pushing Jones closer to the parked pickup behind him. Jones dodged several blows when he reached behind him and grabbed an intact beer bottle.
“He hit Vonsell on the back of the neck with it, and it shattered,” Parker recounted. “I heard a pop and got hit by the glass.”
During cross examination, Hatley emphasized through Parker’s testimony that it was a smooth intact bottle that was swung once and struck the victim before Jones fled.
“One swipe. One hit. One bust,” the defense attorney emphasized.
Parker and Brooks both remembered seeing Jones with the empty beer bottle in his back pocket before the incident and thought little of it.
“I didn’t think he’d use it for that,” Brooks said. “I didn’t think nothing of it.”
Ramirez then grabbed his neck, after throwing another punch, Brooks testified, and went to the house.
He tried the front door first but found it was locked before going in through the back door, Parked recalled.
“I saw him put a hand on the wall and there was a bloody hand print,” Parker said. “That’s when I knew he was hurt.”
While Ramirez went back to the house, the truck took off and Jones got in it down the road, Parker said.
Parker said she later got Ramirez into a car and wrapped her black jacket around his neck and applied pressure. Ramirez then removed a shard of glass from his neck.
“He pulled the glass out of his neck, and I just got drenched with blood,” she said.
At that time, Ramirez’s friends and family realized they couldn’t find the car keys and Jazmine Beckham called 911.
Beckham said she was in the bathroom inside the home when the incident occurred and walked out to screams and blood in the house.
Wilkinson played the two 911 calls placed from 2504 Booker St.
In the call, most of what the jury heard was incoherent screams, frantic yells for help and sobs.
“All I remember was seeing Vonsell in the backseat of (Ramirez’s mother) Dederia’s (Bates) car. Cyncere was applying pressure,” Beckham explained.
The chaotic phone call led to law enforcement confusion because dispatch thought a shooting had occurred. So when Victoria police detective David Reed arrived on the scene, he anticipated a gun.
From a safety standpoint, Reed said on the witness stand, he wanted to focus on separating those at the scene while assessing the victim. He instructed Parker to continue holding pressure while he assessed the scene.
After a few moments, he identified that it was not a shooting but a possible stabbing.
“It was pretty chaotic out there,” Reed said. “It took a lot of officers to keep everyone separated and calm them down.”
Wilkinson shared Reed’s body camera footage of the first six or seven minutes after arriving on the scene with jurors. In it, jurors heard Reed instructing witnesses to step back as he spoke to Parker, holding Ramirez wound shut. Jurors heard Bates’ frantic speech as she asked for help and watched her son struggle to breathe.
“Can y’all help me?” she asked officers. “I don’t want to lose my son.”
Paramedics showed up shortly afterward to transport Ramirez to DeTar Hospital Navarro, where he was pronounced dead. Police then started taking witness statements.
It was while officers were taking statements that Victoria police Lt. James Poe realized patrol units were parked on the crime scene.
He said on the witness stand that he remembered seeing a broken beer bottle with blood on it in the roadway.
“(The bottle) was pretty flat and broken at that time,” Poe said.
He and other Victoria officers, including detective James Collins shifted their focus to find the suspect at his home on Avenue D.
Collins testified that he went to Jones’ home on Avenue D in the early hours of June 8, 2016. Jones came to the front yard from the backyard with one hand in his pocket.
“He appeared normal,” Collins remembered.
Poe said officials found Jones with blood on his jeans and on his hand.
Based on witness statements, the officers knew they were looking for a red pickup that Collins responded to later that night when it was pulled over on Moody Street.
He found blood droplets on the vehicle’s right bumper, he said. Wilkinson showed jurors photos of the vehicle.
Hatley focused on how close someone had to be to get blood drops on the vehicle.
“Whatever dropped the blood (on the truck) must have been near the truck,” Collins said.