Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tracy torture victim's disappearance long unknown to police

by Jennifer Wadsworth/TP staff
Jun 16, 2009

A 16-year-old boy allegedly held captive and brutally tortured for more than a year in Tracy wasn’t reported missing to the police until nearly a year after he ran away from a Sacramento group home.

The teen called Kyle Ramirez in court papers — but who has a different legal surname — met up with his “aunt,” CarĂ©n Ramirez, after she convinced him to leave the Children’s Receiving Home in Sacramento in early May 2007, according to his testimony in a 928-page grand jury transcript unsealed Friday.

It wasn’t until March 27, 2008 — 11 months after he ran away — that the Sacramento County Department of Social Services reported the child missing to the police. Until then, a couple of social workers made a few phone calls every month to Ramirez and her daughter, Cristina Sanchez. No one ever answered.

Meanwhile, police say Ramirez and three other adults imprisoned the boy inside a two-story home in the heart of Tracy. They said a married couple, their houseguest Ramirez and a next-door neighbor allegedly starved, drugged and regularly tormented, beat and burned Kyle from about July 2007 until the boy’s Dec. 1 escape.

Linda Hirsch, a Sacramento social worker assigned to find the missing teen, said she learned months before Kyle’s escape in Tracy that Ramirez had been collecting a Social Security check in the child’s name. She called the Social Security office, but they refused to give her Ramirez’s mailing address.

At that point, police had taken the investigation off Hirsch’s hands, she told jurors. The first time Hirsch actually met Kyle was on Dec. 2, in the Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, the day after the boy jumped on a trampoline to vault a wall behind the Tennis Lane home and frantically ran into an adjacent health club to beg for help.

“He was very thin, fragile — he had burns, bruises on him,” Hirsch recalled.In fact, Kyle’s untreated wounds were so severe that he was sent to a burn clinic in Davis, where he stayed 20 days — from Dec. 2 to 22 — to recover from skin grafts to repair scabbed-over third-degree burns and other head-to-toe injuries.

A doctor who testified before a San Joaquin County criminal grand jury in March said Kyle’s untreated burns and cuts were serious enough that if the burns were left to heal on their own, they would have restricted the boy’s mobility.

David Greenhalgh, a doctor who treated Kyle at University of California, Davis, Medical Center for most of December, said the boy had severe burns on his left arm that appeared to have been untreated for about three weeks.

During the month before Kyle’s escape from the Tracy home, the family he lived with couldn’t afford to pay the utility bill, so they lived for nearly a month without electricity, witnesses told the grand jury. During that time, the family warmed up by the fireplace to which Kyle was allegedly shackled. That’s when he said he got his worst burn.

Ramirez had allegedly abused Kyle in the past, but the beatings escalated to harrowing torture once he moved to the Tennis Lane home, the boy said. Kyle recounted getting beaten and cut with a mallet, a baseball bat, razors and belts. He said the four adults he stayed with doused him in lighter fluid and bleach, taped his mouth shut and tied his wrists behind his back. At times, the only nourishment he said he’d get was the hard liquor they allegedly forced him to drink.

To abet Kyle’s story are his many scars.Kyle had scars and burns on his lower abdomen, on his back and all over his left arm, according to Greenhalgh. Kyle told jurors that he got the scar on his left arm from passing out after Lau allegedly choked him with a belt. He dropped to the fireplace hearth and his arm fell on the grate while the fire burned.

Kyle said that days or weeks before, his alleged captors restrained him and cut the same arm four or five times with a steak knife.

“And after they got done cutting you, what did they do?” San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Angela Hayes asked Kyle.

“So they put my arm over a bucket and then poured bleach on my cut, and then they put a bandage … I think it was a paper towel or something,” Kyle said, according to the grand jury report. “And then they taped it after — oh, my bad — they put butter and salt after they poured the bleach on.”

He said his captors doctored his wounds with bleach, butter and salt. The only time he got to rinse off the blood was when they took him outside and showered him with the hose or doused him with pots of hot water, he said.

Another doctor, Angela Rosas of Sutter Medical center in Sacramento, said the boy had so many injuries that she needed to refresh her memory by looking at a chart before she could talk about them to jurors.

Rosas, who treated Kyle on Dec. 3 for the first time, said he had scars all over the crown of his head that appeared to have been deep enough to require stitches, but many of them were old and untreated. They healed into thick, permanent scars, Rosas said.

Kyle said that the four suspects many times would beat him with a metal baseball bat. Rosas said that the scars appeared to be from something heavy hitting his head and splitting the skin.

When she first saw Kyle in early December, a couple of days after he escaped shackled and bloodied to a Tracy gym, she said his head was covered in what appeared to be glue residue.

Rosas recounted a long list of injuries: Marks on his neck from being choked with a belt, scratches and cuts all over his stomach and back, healing burns on his lower abdomen, burns from some caustic chemical that had dripped near his genitals, a deep cut and third-degree burns on his arm and permanent scars on each wrist from being bound with zip-ties.

Also, Kyle’s ankles were cut from the shackle that kept him chained to the fireplace, according to the transcript.

He was so malnourished from allegedly living off old Halloween candy, the occasional piece of bread and liquor that it could have been why he hadn’t gone through puberty yet, a doctor and prosecutors said. He weighed little more than 120 pounds and, at 5 feet, 4 inches, was short for his age at the time of his escape. He has since gained 50 pounds, according to transcripts.“It was a horrible case of child abuse,” Rosas concluded.

Michael Schumacher, his wife, Kelly Lau, their neighbor, Anthony Waiters, and Ramirez are due in court Thursday.

All but Schumacher, who has yet to enter a plea, have pleaded not guilty to the 17 felony charges of various types of abuse and kidnapping, aggravated assault and false imprisonment by violence.

Tracy Press - Tracy torture victim s disappearance long unknown to police

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