OGDEN — A judge ruled Monday morning that a South Ogden man implicated in an August murder is competent to stand trial, despite being ruled incompetent in the past.
Jesus Martinez Ramos, 44, was present in court Monday alongside his attorney, Randall Marshall.
Ramos’ case has been on hold since Aug. 17, when Judge Ernie Jones ordered for a competency evaluation, according to online court records.
The Monday hearing started with testimony from Dr. Ryan Houston, a psychologist who conducted the forensic interview of Ramos. Houston said that Ramos is “borderline competent to stand trial,” and said he’s just above the cutoff line for competency.
Houston said that although Ramos’ IQ is 59, he believes Ramos understands the charges against him and he would be able to answer questions if he’s put on the witness stand.
Houston said that Ramos talked about trauma during his childhood that could have an impact on his current state. Ramos grew up in a “bad neighborhood” in Fresno, California, where he often saw people get stabbed. Houston said Ramos was once chased by a man he saw stab another, and the man chased him home. The man threatened the young Ramos until his father was able to convince the man that his son wouldn’t tell anyone, Houston said.
During cross examination, Marshall questioned Houston’s competency ruling, and asked if it was normal for one expert to rule one way and for another to rule a different way. Houston said different psychologists can make different determinations.
Ramos’ competency has been a question in recent years. According to charges filed in 2017, Ramos allegedly stabbed two roommates in Salt Lake City and broke their phones. Later, the Utah State Hospital declared him mentally incompetent to stand trial, charges were dismissed on Feb. 23, 2018, and Ramos went free.
The other witness to testify Monday was Detective Steve Zaccardi, commander of the county’s homicide task force. Zaccardi interviewed Ramos days after the body of 54-year-old Shiela Jean Dunn was found lying in some weeds in South Ogden.
Zaccardi testified that Ramos initially denied killing Dunn before he allegedly confessed to the killing. The detective told the court that Ramos said he gave investigators an alibi, and allegedly admitted it was a lie when confronted.
Zaccardi said that Dunn was stabbed roughly 140 times, which would have created a large amount of blood. When police searched the apartment where Ramos, Dunn and another woman lived, they could smell bleach, Zaccardi said. Police later found the apartment was cleaned extensively, and blood remnants could be seen using luminol, a chemical used to show where blood had previously been. Dunn’s body was found roughly 100 yards from the apartment, according to Zaccardi.
Prosecutors argued that Ramos understands the crime he’s accused of, saying his attempt to lie about an alibi and clean the crime scene serve as evidence of his understanding of the crime.
Toward the end of the hearing, Jones said Ramos’ low IQ score was troubling for him, but he ruled the state had met its burden of proof to show that Ramos understands the charges against him. Jones said that Ramos may have a learning disability, but seemed to understand Zaccardi’s questions.
With the competency question now answered, the case will move forward. Ramos’ next court hearing will be on Nov. 14, where the state and defense will set a date for a preliminary hearing.