Fifteen years ago, someone gunned down Raymond "Boy" Ramos Jr. and stole thousands of dollars in cash - money that police believe Ramos intended to exchange for a large amount of drugs.
The assailant or assailants shot the father of seven multiple times, including once to the head, and left him for dead at an isolated overlook near the Nakalele Point Lighthouse.
Within 12 hours, a passing motorist found the 47-year-old Haiku man at 9:10 a.m. June 23, 1998. He was slumped to the right in the driver's seat of a rented Chevy Malibu.
Raymond Ramos Jr.
The 15-year-old murder of Raymond “Boy” Ramos Jr. has haunted his daughter, Rhianna Ramos (left), and his sister, Mona Chang. Ramos family members are hoping someone will come forward to help police find whoever killed Ramos, a convicted drug dealer. His body was found slumped in the driver’s seat of a rented Chevy Malibu on the morning of June 23, 1998, at Nakalele Point. He had been shot multiple times, including once to the head.
The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo
Raymond “Boy” Ramos Jr. blows out birthday candles in an undated photo provided by his family.
Now, a decade-and-a-half later, no one has been charged with killing Ramos, and the case remains officially an unsolved murder.
Maui Police Department Lt. Jayson Rego was among the first detectives investigating Ramos' murder, and he said recently that police continue working to solve the cold case and give the man's family some peace and closure.
Police believe someone lured Ramos, a convicted drug dealer, to the isolated West Maui overlook to purchase a large amount of drugs, Rego said. But drugs never changed hands. Instead, "We believe it was just a setup to rob Ramos of his cash," he said.
Rego would not disclose how much cash police believe was taken, although he said it was "a large amount," in the "thousands."
Ramos' murder is resurfacing because his children are making public appeals, asking anyone with information to come forward and help police arrest and convict their father's killer or killers.
"Many people were scared when it happened," said daughter Rhianna Ramos, 31, who lives in Kaneohe, Oahu. "Maybe somebody might come forward, might have a change of heart."
Ramos was 16 when her father died. The last time she saw him was about four days before his murder.
She and her sister had exchanged "harsh words" with him about his girlfriend, whom he was staying with in Haiku after his divorce from the mother of five of his seven children. (Two older children were from an earlier relationship, while Rhianna Ramos is the oldest of five children from his second relationship.)
Rhianna and younger sister Speshul Ramos were staying at the Kahului home of their aunt, Mona Chang, when they learned late at night that their father had been murdered.
Minutes earlier, they had seen a TV news report that a Caucasian male had been found shot multiple times at Nakalele Point, Rhianna Ramos recalled. Then, phone calls came to Chang's residence after 10:30 p.m., and there was a commotion in the house.
Soon, a police detective and chaplain were outside the house, speaking with Chang, she said.
"When they were introducing themselves, my sister and I came out and said, 'Did our dad get busted again?' We thought that he went back to jail," she said during a recent interview at The Maui News. "That's when they said they're so sorry that he's dead. . . . It felt like a dream."
Rhianna Ramos said that the reality of her father's slaying didn't sink in until the next day when she saw a published news report of his killing.
"My sister Speshul took it worse," she said. "She sat on a chair and rocked. . . . She was talking to my dad. We tried to get her out of it, but she wasn't responding to nobody."
Although Ramos said she had her "breaking-down moments," she said she was the oldest of her siblings and "I tried to keep it together and stay strong for them."
Raymond Ramos was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Feb. 2, 1993, after pleading no contest to first- and second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug for distributing and possessing cocaine. He and his wife at the time were arrested after a Feb. 17, 1992, search of their Makawao home. Ramos was paroled March 5, 1997, after serving four years behind bars on the Big Island.
Despite her father's conviction, Rhianna Ramos said, he was the heart of the family.
"He was our backbone. He did everything," she said. "We didn't know he dealt drugs. . . . When he got raided that first time that he went into prison, I was only going to be in the 4th grade."
During the evening raid at the Ramos' Makawao residence, "our gate in the front of the house came flying open," Rhianna Ramos recalled. Police "almost ran over our dogs. They ran up to my dad. They held a gun to my dad's head, and my sister was standing right there. And she starts screaming. My mom was screaming. They came running in the house. They told us to hit the floor. We got the pillows that was on the couches, and we went down.
"They brought my dad in the house in handcuffs, but they had a towel over his hands," she said. Police found money and possibly drugs, Ramos said. The family's Makawao house was seized by the government because it was connected with drug dealing, she said. The Ramos children were eventually put under the care of Child Protective Services.
Rhianna Ramos said that her father sheltered his family, keeping his drug world hidden from them. He didn't live the extravagant lifestyle one might suspect of a drug dealer, she said. As far as she knew, her father provided well for the family by driving a truck for Maui County and later for a private trucking company.
Her father's drug dealing "was like news to us because everything we did we did together," she said. "I don't know when he had the time (to deal drugs) because he was always there. He picked us up from school. We went to beaches on the weekend, camping. We went on family trips, not like to the Mainland or anyplace exotic. We just went to Honolulu, Big Island. We did stuff like that."
Ramos said her father was her most supportive parent.
"It was always my dad," she said. "My mom was around, whatever. But it was my dad.
. . . My dad took me to the hospital when I had my asthma attack. When we were sick, my dad stayed home and took care of us. He was mom and dad."
Chang said that her brother was a good but imperfect person.
"What Raymond did was wrong, but Raymond had a big heart," she said through tears. "And I saw how much these kids loved him."
Family members say they are confident that police are closing in on Raymond Ramos' killer or killers. There are suspects, but not enough evidence to convict whoever's responsible for the killing, they said.
What's chilling is that family members might know whoever killed him.
"Knowing Raymond the way we did, it's obvious it was someone or a group that he knew well," said his niece Lisa Ramos. "There was no way . . . he was going out there (to Nakalele Point), that far, alone."
Questions about whether his murderer was nearby haunted the family, even at his funeral, she said.
"We're at his funeral, hugging people, kissing people, shaking their hands, and every single one of them we're questioning in our own head, 'Is this you? Was it you?' " Lisa Ramos recalled.
Rhianna Ramos said that she no longer wants revenge, although she does seek justice and closure. Every day, she said, she thinks about her father's killer or killers walking free.
"How can you walk around, knowing you did something like that?" she asked. "You walk around freely like nothing happened. You just go on with your day. You play with your kids, your grandchildren. How can you? That's sick.
"People who do stuff like that. . . . They have no conscience. They don't have a heart," she said.
Rego said that people were "very afraid to say anything about the case" after the murder.
"Hopefully, someone will come forward now," he said.
Lisa Ramos said that her cousins have been punished by their father's murder.
"These kids never chose to be sentenced to this," she said. "You know, they got 15 years to life. Fifteen years of pain that they're still going through. If we don't find out who did this, then that's the life sentence."
She said family members are, in a sense, trying to bring Raymond Ramos back to life, at least by retelling the story of his unsolved murder and "letting the public know he's gone, but he's not forgotten."
"His murderer or murderers are still out there," Lisa Ramos said. "If they're still out there, who's to say that they won't do it again?"
Anyone with information should call the Maui Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division at 244-6425 or Maui Crime Stoppers at 242-6966. Crime Stoppers provides cash rewards for tips that lead to the arrest and conviction of people suspected of felony offenses. Tipsters remain anonymous.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.