A Chowchilla woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to killing a man earlier this month in a Le Grand almond orchard.
Olivia F. Ramos, 25, denied shooting Ernesto Estrada Perez, 30, of Merced, in an orchard near Buchanan Hollow and South Minturn roads on Sept. 9. She was booked on suspicion of committing the crime on Sept. 13, following an investigation by the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.
Ramos entered her plea before retired Judge Frank Dougherty in Merced Superior Court. The judge ordered Ramos to return to court Wednesday for further proceedings, according to court records.
She is charged with an open count of murder and two enhancements for allegedly using a firearm. If convicted, Ramos faces a maximum sentence of 40 years to life in prison, according to Robert Carroll, chief deputy district attorney.
Perez’s body was found with his pants and underwear pulled down to his knees. He was shot at least eight times with two different types of bullets in the pelvis, head, chest, back and stomach, according to reports from the Sheriff’s Department.
According to court documents, Ramos lied numerous times during interviews with investigators. It was not clear from the reports if Ramos ever told detectives a version of events they completely believed.
Detectives said Ramos and Perez had been exchanging messages and communicating through Facebook for several weeks. Perez was married and Ramos has a boyfriend.
Ramos told detectives Perez picked her up on the night of Sept. 8 in a brown 2001 Ford F-150 pickup truck and drove her to the orchard in Le Grand. She said Perez pulled a black pistol from under the driver’s seat after she told him not to touch her, the report says.
Perez’s family reportedly told investigators that he did not own any firearms.
She told investigators Perez grabbed her arm and leg, but deputies said she did not have any visible marks. She told deputies Perez threatened her with the gun and she grabbed it and shot him in self-defense, the report says.
Ramos also said she shot him in the back as he tried to run away, then continued shooting until the clip was empty. She told deputies she kept shooting Perez because she “was mad” and said she did not call police because she was scared and “had to cover it up.” She picked up numerous shell casings and drove away in Perez’s truck, the report says.
Deputies said Ramos then told several different stories, but eventually said she returned to the scene with her boyfriend, Victor Cazares, who is described in reports as an active gang member.
She said Cazares checked Perez’s pulse to confirm he was dead. Then Cazares “yelled out loud and shot him (Perez) two times with a revolver pistol,” the report says.
Ramos said she and Cazares then drove the truck to Sandy Mush Road near El Nido and torched the vehicle. A family member picked them up a short time later, the report says.
She said she did not know what Cazares did with the weapons, the report says.
It was not clear Thursday if the murder weapon had been recovered.
Authorities declined to say whether they intend to charge Cazares with any crime. He had not been arrested or charged as of Thursday evening.
Prior to Perez’s death, witnesses told investigators that Cazares had become aware of Perez’s relationship with Ramos and Cazares had threatened to kill Perez, the report says.
Ramos remained in custody Thursday evening in lieu of $1 million bail.