On June 30, 2022, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office announced that they had identified Ramiro Villegas as the lead suspect in the March 3, 1994 rape and murder of 10-year-old Angelica Ramirez in Visalia, California. The case has been cleared by exception due to the death of Villegas.
Ramirez was at a swap meet with her family, helping at their vegetable booth, when she left to use the restroom. She did not return. A search was begun immediately. Her body was found by a farm hand two days later in a canal in Pixley. She had been raped and strangled.
A DNA profile of the suspect was obtained from semen collected from Ramirez’ body. The FGG investigation was conducted by the FBI Forensic Genealogy Unit (FGU), beginning in June of 2021. The investigation was narrowed down to a cohort of five brothers, four of whom were living in Southern California. These four had their DNA sampled, and were ruled out as suspect.
The fifth brother is Ramiro Villegas. He had been charged with fighting in 1991, but received probation with no jail time, and later spent two years in prison, from about 2002-2004, in El Dorado County for transporting drugs. He is also said to have molested two children in the 1980s, but these crimes were not reported to law enforcement. Villegas was returned to Mexico after he was released from prison, where he died in 2014.
A DNA sample was not collected from Villegas after his 2002 conviction, as California did not collect DNA from persons convicted of all felonies, including non-violent felonies, until the passing of Proposition 69 in November of 2004. A 2010 study by the California AG found that the majority (61%) of DNA samples that matched to a cold case was collected for a non-violent felony, like drug offences and property crimes. This expansion of DNA collection to all felonies remains controversial in California.
Connor, Tracy. “It Took 28 Years, but Cops Solved this 10-Year-Old’s Rape and Murder.” Daily Beast, June 30, 2022. Last Modified July 1, 2022. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.thedailybeast.com/ramiro-villegas-raped-and-murdered-angelica-ramirez-in-visalia-in-1994-tulare-cops-say.
Navarro, Elisa, and ABC30.com Staff. “Tulare County Sheriff’s Office Identifies Suspect in 1994 Angelica Ramirez Kidnapping, Murder.” ABC30.com, July 1, 2022. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://abc30.com/tulare-county-sheriffs-office-update-cold-case-angelica-ramirez/12006754/.
Romero, Sheyanne N. “A Face to the Killer: Tulare County Detectives Close Decades-Old Angelica Ramirez Cold Case.” Visalia Times Delta, June 30, 2022. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2022/06/30/tulare-county-angelica-ramirez-murder-case-closed-arrest/7782956001/.
Segura, Daniella. “Decades Later, Accused Killer Identified in Death of 10-year-Old Girl, CA Cops Say.” Sacramento Bee, July 1, 2022. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/article263110693.html.
Ulloa, Jazmine, “Lawmakers Try to Fix Side Effect of Reducing Drug and Theft Crimes: Not Enough DNA Samples for Cold Cases.” Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2016. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-dna-collection-evidence-california-legislation-20161222-story.html.