LaPlace resident killed in W. Virginia

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 24, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – A well-liked 81-year-old LaPlace man was found buried in a makeshift West Virginia grave after he was allegedly murdered by his granddaughter and the girl’s boyfriend in the couple’s Bucktown apartment in Jefferson Parish, said Public Information Officer Colonel Bob Garner, with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Garner said Henry Ramirez of 1924 Yorktowne Drive was found dead on Jan. 11, in a wooded area located within Gerradstown city limits.

Authorities believe Ramirez, a retired disc jockey and private investigator was strangled on Jan. 6, in Apartment 206 at 1516 Aztec Drive. The rental unit was home to Mary Armor Crawford, 33, and Shawn Jason Cole, 29.

Piecing together information gathered during an investigation, authorities believe the young couple called Ramirez and asked him to drive them to a bus station.

After Ramirez arrived at the apartment, an argument broke out between Ramirez, Cole and Crawford.

Angry with Ramirez, Cole strangled the elderly man to death, acknowledged Garner.

The spokesman agreed the couple wrapped Ramirez in blankets and black trash bags, putting him in the back of a moving van – paid for with a personal check stolen from their victim.

Garner conceded the couple cashed two personal checks belonging to Ramirez. One check was written in the amount of $1,400 and the other for $1,200. The stolen money was used to rent a moving truck to move the couple’s personal belongings and to rent a motel room on Airline Highway, where the couple bedded for one night.

Cole and Crawford embarked on a two-day journey, which concluded in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Then, on Jan. 9, the couple arrived in Gerradstown.

Garner concurred the couple borrowed a shovel and a wheelbarrow from their new Gerradstown neighbors.

After loaning the couple their wheelbarrow, the woman began to joke with Cole and Crawford – asking them if they planned to bury a body. Cole told the woman he planned to bury a dog.

Later in the day, the woman curiously watched Cole push the borrowed cart – containing what looked like a body bag – into a nearby wooded area. The neighbor grew increasingly suspicious of Cole after she noticed the wheelbarrow’s cargo was too bulky to be a dog.

Suspecting there was something other than a dog in the black garbage bag, the woman convinced her boyfriend to go into the woods to see what Cole had buried.

Prodding the woods, the neighbors discovered Ramirez’s body in a shallow grave. The small burial hole had been dug 50 feet from a nearby road and was concealed by brush, confirmed Garner.

Cole and Crawford were arrested on Jan.12, one day after their West Virginia neighbors called authorities to report their findings.

Ramirez’s LaPlace neighbors are totally shocked by the elderly man’s killing.

Elsa Galvan lives in a home across the street from Ramirez’s residence on Yorktown Drive.

Early Wednesday evening, Galvan was sitting in the living room of her home with her son, Tevye Cruz. The two neighbors were in total disbelief over Ramirez’s death.

“Shortly after New Year’s, he told us he was going to see his family. So we thought he had taken his car and driven to visit family members,” said Galvan.

Galvan said Ramirez didn’t appear to be very cheerful about his plans for visiting family.

“He seemed indifferent to me,” said Cruz. “He was not overly excited. He was just “I’m going.”

Galvan said her family became concerned about Ramirez when he did not return home after one week.

“We started getting nervous. We sat around and talked among ourselves in the living room. I told my husband and son it was strange he (Ramirez) had not come home to feed his cats. He has a lot of cats. Some live inside and some live outside. He had asked us to keep an eye on his house, but he knew there was no one caring for his cats,” said Galvan.

Cruz said the family finally concluded that perhaps Ramirez was having such a good time that he decided to overlook the pets.

Galvan and Cruz said the house Ramirez lived in did not belong to him.

They said Ramirez’s former girlfriend, who died approximately five years ago, owned the retiree’s home.

“For seven to eight years, Ramirez lived with his girlfriend in her home,” said Galvan. “When she died, her children wanted Ramirez to leave the home.”

“Mr. Henry hired an attorney. The attorney made the woman’s children back off,” said neighbor Patrick Lewis.

Lewis said the children of Ramirez’s deceased girl friend began to acknowledge Ramirez for the years of care he provided their mother. The children allowed Ramirez to remain in their mother’s home.

“He didn’t bother anybody He was a real sweet old man. He talked about being a jockey and an investigator for the state of Louisiana. He would tell everyone he had a lot of money,” said Lewis.

Galvan and Cruz concurred Ramirez often told people he had a hidden nest egg.

“He always told people he had money. It is not good to tell people you have money because they come looking for you – like this happening,” said Galvan. “Although he had one son, no one ever visited him. These two individuals (Cole and Crawford) only came around for his money. He was lonely. He wanted a semblance of family.”

Cruz said he often saw Ramirez win large amounts of money at the casinos and at the horse races.

“He would tell me that people asked him how to bet. He told big stories about his racetrack and detective work,” said Cruz. “He said he was still in the horse business and he watched our street and houses as though he were still an investigator.”

Lowering his eyes, Lewis sheepishly uttered, “I love Mr. Henry. He was just like family. He was like a father to me. He looked after my home and my three children, often giving them advice. He loved my kids.”

Claiming Ramirez was between a rock and a hard place, Galvan said, “The rock was his loneliness. The hard place were the relatives who only wanted him for his money.”