SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 25, 2013

Woman found guilty in assault on disabled neighbor

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — A former Beverly woman was found guilty yesterday in what a prosecutor called the “brutal” beating of a disabled woman who was left disfigured outside a Rantoul Street apartment building where both lived last May.

Saranyeliz Ramirez, 22, who moved to Lawrence while awaiting trial, will be sentenced next month on the charge of assault and battery, after Salem District Court Judge Michael Uhlarik asked for a pre-sentencing investigation and evaluation of Ramirez’s mental health.

It took jurors about 15 minutes to conclude that Ramirez had beaten her 41-year-old disabled neighbor, after the neighbor accused her of stealing medication while helping her pack some belongings.

The neighbor testified that she required reconstructive surgery on her face, underneath her eye, where the punches and kicks from Ramirez shattered bones in her face. She has also suffered permanent vision damage in that eye, she said.

Jurors heard slightly conflicting accounts from two witnesses, one a friend of the victim, and the other a friend of the defendant.

Both, however, said the fight started when Ramirez tried to “high-five” the victim, who snubbed her, then said she wanted nothing to do with Ramirez, accusing her of stealing medications she takes.

The victim suffers from partial paralysis on one side, a result of two strokes. As she was being sworn in, she was unable to raise her right hand. She walks with a limp and wears a back brace because of recent surgery to her spine.

“I didn’t high-five her,” said the woman. “She said what the (expletive), you can’t say ‘hi’? I said, ‘You and I both know you stole medication from my house.’ She started calling me names in Spanish.”

Then, Ramirez ripped the glasses off her head, the woman testified. When the woman said she would call police, Ramirez pushed her to the ground outside The Millery apartments and began punching and kicking her.

But Ramirez’s friend told jurors that the victim was the aggressor, shoving Ramirez into a corner and balling her fists.

Defense lawyer Mark Barry tried to argue that Ramirez acted in self-defense from the older, taller woman.

And he also questioned why the woman never reported the suspected theft of pills to police.

Ramirez’s friend, Sharon New, testified that she was walking back from a nearby park when she saw the older woman yelling and “forcing” Ramirez into a corner.

Later, under cross-examination by prosecutor Patrick Collins, New acknowledged that Ramirez went with her to her apartment in the building before police arrived, and that the defendant never went down to speak to officers.

And Collins argued that the disabled woman was someone unable to defend herself.

Ramirez never took the stand in her own defense — a decision that cost her the chance to assert her own claim of self-defense and led Uhlarik to decide not to give the jury legal instructions on the use of force in self-defense.

Ramirez has been on probation in a Lawrence assault and battery case from March 2012 and was charged in two prior assault and battery cases, Collins told the judge during a sentencing argument.

That history, he said, was a concern. He asked the judge to sentence Ramirez to 18 months in custody.

Barry, the defense lawyer, said Ramirez suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has recently been in counseling.

Ramirez’s demeanor changed dramatically during the proceedings yesterday. During Collins’ argument, she smiled and shook her head. But as Barry began to speak, she burst into tears.

Barry urged the judge to put her on probation, saying Ramirez now lives closer to her family in Lawrence and has been in counseling in an effort to regain custody of her child.

Uhlarik ordered Ramirez into custody pending the Oct. 21 sentencing.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.