U.S. senator probing Santa Maria murder case
August 12, 2015
The chairman of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating the background of an illegal immigrant, whom he says was allowed to murder a Santa Maria woman because of a dysfunctional immigration system.
Last month, Victor Aureliano Martinez Ramirez, an illegal immigrant, and a co-defendant broke into the home of 64-year-old Marilyn Pharis while she was sleeping. They beat her with a hammer and sexually assaulted her, according to Santa Maria police. Pharis died eight days after the attack, and both men are now charged with first-degree murder with special circumstances of burglary, mayhem and rape.
On Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) sent a letter to the head of the Department of Homeland Security demanding details about Martinez Ramirez’s immigration and criminal background. The letter questions why Martinez Ramirez was not deported following prior arrests and convictions.
Grassley’s letter states Martinez Ramirez was released from custody just five days prior to the attack on Pharis, which occurred on July 25.
Grassley cites Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin as saying, on July 17, Martinez Ramirez was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. Shortly following, Martinez Ramirez was convicted of a weapons charge that arose from the drug arrest.
On July 20, Martinez Ramirez was released from custody with the understanding he would serve a 30-day jail sentence, starting in October, for weapons-related conviction. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not file a detainer request because Martinez Ramirez’s case history did not show any deportations or felony convictions, the letter states.
Martinez Ramirez has been arrested several times since 2009, including a May 2014 arrest on felony drug and sexual assault charges. In that case, the felony charges were dropped, but ICE did file a detainer.
The detainer was ignored because of a local sanctuary policy, Grassley alleges. City officials, however, say Santa Maria is not a sanctuary city.
Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin has pinned blame for Pharis’s death on state and federal lawmakers. Grassley quoted Martin in his letter.
“I am not remiss to say that from Washington, D.C. to Sacramento there’s a blood trail into the bedroom of Marilyn Pharis,” Martin is quoted as saying.
Days following the attack in Santa Maria, Paso Robles police arrested a man for beating the 2-year-old daughter of his girlfriend. The suspect, Francisco Javier Chavez, is also an illegal immigrant with an extensive criminal history.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office released Chavez from jail on July 31, the day following his arrest. Following the incident, Sheriff Ian Parkinson released a statement say a 2014 ruling in a federal court case prohibits sheriffs from keeping illegal immigrants in jail on ICE holds.