Ramiro Villegas raped and murdered Angelica Ramirez in Visalia in 1994, Tulare cops say

The rape and murder of a 10-year-old California girl who was kidnapped from a swap meet haunted detectives and her family for 28 years.

But investigators announced on Thursday that they have finally identified a suspect in the Angelica Ramirez case through genealogical DNA work.

To the horror of Angelica’s family, alleged killer Romiro Villegas died in Mexico in 2014 and will never be brought to justice.

“We don’t handcuff a suspect, but we’re closing a case,” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said at a news conference attended by Angelica’s family.

The victim’s sister, Micaela, tearfully thanked the police, who had continued the hunt for the killer through decades of DNA advances.

“At least now we have a face for the killer,” she said. “We don’t have to worry that that person is out there and could do this to someone else.”

Angelica was kidnapped on March 3, 1994 while watching her younger siblings at their parents’ booth at a swap meet in Visalia. She stepped back to use the toilet and disappeared.

Within hours, investigators had launched a massive search for the child. “I remember that day because I was also assigned to search, and I remember the desperate feeling we had trying to find this young girl,” Boudreaux said.

Two days later, a farm worker found her body in a canal, and the missing persons case became a murder investigation.

“As of that day, the Tulare Sheriff’s Office assigned detectives to this case,” Boudreaux said.

The sheriff said that over the course of nearly three decades, investigators have followed thousands of leads, investigated hundreds of prospects, grilled hundreds of potential suspects and conducted nearly 1,000 interviews with anyone who might know.

They had DNA collected from the scene and submitted it to databases 100 times with no hits, although the tests became more sophisticated over the years.

In February, the sheriff’s office, after consulting with the FBI’s Forensic Genealogy Division, hired a private lab to create a genetic profile of the killer.

That was then uploaded to public databases that people use to track their family trees, and in March they got a match.

“We knew we were within two generations of where the suspect fell into that family tree,” said Sgt. Joshua Lowry.

Another comparison between this family’s relatives and the suspect’s DNA led police to focus on five male siblings living in Southern California. Four submitted DNA and were ruled out as suspects.

The fifth, Romiro Villegas, failed to test. After being arrested for drug trafficking in 2002, he was deported to Mexico, where he died of a lung condition in 2014.

“DNA was never collected from him,” Boudreaux said.

The sheriff said he spent two days with Angelica’s family, guiding them through the investigation and explaining why they are certain that Villegas was the man who sexually assaulted and strangled them.

“If there’s any consolation, we know he’s dead, and I think he’s in a special place and a special place,” Boudreaux said. “But we know Angelica is in heaven.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/ramiro-villegas-raped-and-murdered-angelica-ramirez-in-visalia-in-1994-tulare-cops-say?source=articles&via=rss Ramiro Villegas raped and murdered Angelica Ramirez in Visalia in 1994, Tulare cops say

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