SOUTH OGDEN — Jesus Martinez Ramos Jr. stabbed one roommate in the shoulder, back and chest, then stabbed another twice in the back, and broke both their phones, Salt Lake City police alleged in an incident report last summer.
But after Utah State Hospital experts declared him mentally incompetent to stand trial, charges were dismissed on Feb. 23, 2018, and Ramos went free.
Ramos moved to South Ogden. He was arrested Monday on a first-degree murder charge in the Saturday stabbing death of a roommate.
Court records and interviews with officials Thursday provided some explanation for why an allegedly violent person could be freed to commit an even more serious crime later on.
A November 2017 court order found that Ramos had mild mental retardation, lacked the capacity to comprehend or appreciate the charges against him, and had limited verbal comprehension and communication skills.
After experts determine a person is mentally incompetent, “The difficulty is they can’t be held indefinitely,” said Geoff Fattah, spokesman for the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts.
Prosecutors have a few options in such instances, but they’re limited.
In Ramos’s February hearing, Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Curtis Tuttle did not oppose the public defender’s motion that the charges be dismissed.
“Unless there’s a change in Mr. Ramos’s competency status, I don’t know that we’d be able to pursue this case,” Tuttle told 3rd District Judge Linda Jones, according to an audio recording of the hearing. “I’m not sure what else we’d do with this case at this point.”
Jeffrey William Hall, Salt Lake County chief deputy district attorney, amplified Tuttle’s comments.
“The law really provides no means by which someone can be held in jail if it’s known their criminal case can’t and won’t go forward,” Hall said by email. “We address public safety issues against the backdrop of a person’s constitutional rights, and in this instance, we could not continue to detain Mr. Ramos.”
After the November competency decision, the court kept the case open for two months to see how Ramos woud do in a less restrictive setting, and he committed no violations, Hall said.
“But a defendant who is not competent and not restorable is not someone we can ultimately prosecute, and we agreed to dismiss his case,” Hall said.
Jones dismissed the case and told Ramos, “And so, sir, you don’t have to come back to court, OK?”
“Yes, you are done with court,” added the public defender, Wojciech Nitecki.
“You are free to go,” Jones said.
“Thank you guys,” Ramos said.
Prosecutors had the option of seeking to involuntarily commit Ramos for treatment at the Utah State Hospital.
But Niteki pointed out that Ramos had not violated any pretrial dictates after the June 21, 2017, stabbings. Among those provisions was a protective order that forbade Ramos from any contact with his former roommates.
Court records show the protective order, approved a week after the stabbings, said the order was needed “Because of the likelihood of repeated violence.”
In a 2015 case in Salt Lake, Ramos was convicted of attempted aggravated assault after he pulled a knife and threatened a woman who spurned his advances. He also threatened to stab or shoot other people there.
A judge sentenced him to suspended jail terms and put him on probation for two years. Kaitlin Felsted, a Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said Ramos successfully completed his probationary term.
Weber County Attorney Chris Allred, who is prosecuting Ramos in the South Ogden murder, said it’s unlikely the suspect would be allowed to go free if he’s again found to be mentally incompetent.
“He’s a stabber,” Allred said. “We are absolutely prepared to make sure he doesn’t go back out on the street. Because we’re aware of his propensity, if he is found to be incompetent, we would move very quickly to have him civilly committed.”
After Ramos was freed in February, he apparently was under no further court supervision.
“We don’t show he was sent to us,” Nancy By of Salt Lake County Pretrial Services said Thursday.
South Ogden police said Ramos admitted to stabbing a female roommate on Saturday, Aug. 4, dumping the body and throwing away the knife. He is held without bail on charges of first-degree felony murder, obstruction of justice and desecration of a body.