MEDINA — A potential serial killer in training could be off the streets for a long time.
That’s how Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson said he feels about Gavon Ramsay, the 17-year-old Wadsworth teen found guilty Friday in the murder of 98-year-old Margaret Douglas, also of Wadsworth.
The teen appeared in Medina County Common Pleas Court on Friday where he withdrew a previous plea of not guilty and entered a plea of no contest to nine counts in connection with the brutal killing of the widow who lived alone on Portage Street.
Thompson said after the plea hearing that in his opinion, Ramsay “seemed to be on his way down that path (to becoming a serial killer). He seemed fascinated with it, by the whole concept.”
Ramsay pleaded no contest to four courts of aggravated murder; two counts of murder; one count of aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony; one count of kidnapping, a first-degree felony; and one count of abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony.
Judge Joyce V. Kimbler set sentencing for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 3. Ramsay faces the possibility of life without parole, which is something Thompson said he will push for at sentencing.
“I don’t think it’s a big secret,” he said. “I’m asking for life without parole.”
Public Defender Jocelyn Stefancin said no agreements were reached in respect to sentencing before Friday’s plea hearing. She had no additional comments.
When Kimbler asked Ramsay if he understood the murder charges, the teen replied, “I caused the death of Margaret Douglas.”
Police found Douglas’ body April 9 in a closet during a second walkthrough of her home after she was reported missing earlier in the day. The body was concealed by various items and clothing. She died in the early hours of April 6, police have previously said.
Wadsworth police Lt. Dave Dorland said it is believed Douglas was strangled.
Ramsay was indicted May 22 by a county grand jury and initially pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and awaited trial in the Medina County Juvenile Detention Center.
The plea change came three days before the jury trial was set to begin Monday.
What happened April 6?
Early in the case Kimbler issued a gag order that silenced both sides and kept many of the details of the April murder under wraps.
Kimbler lifted that order Friday.
Stefancin objected to no avail. Thompson said the reason for the gag order was to protect a potential jury pool.
“That issue is now behind us,” he said.
As such, after the hearing Thompson laid out the details of the grisly crime.
Ramsay entered an unlocked back door at Douglas’ house at 359 Portage St., Wadsworth, Thompson said.
“(Ramsay) videoed her while she was asleep on the couch in the living room,” the prosecutor said.
Although police have video evidence in the case, Thompson said Ramsay didn’t record himself actually strangling the 98-year-old woman as he used both hands.
He undressed the elderly woman and abused her corpse. She wasn’t sexually assaulted.
The clothing she was wearing was found in the closet with her body.
Ramsay wore food service-type gloves — loose-fitting plastic gloves — while in the house. The gloves appeared in some of the short videos he made, Thompson said.
When Douglas was found and police were searching her home, court documents said police found a white plastic glove in a flower bed by the back door of her home.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation tested the glove and confirmed DNA from Douglas as well as Ramsay’s DNA on both the inside and outside of the glove.
Cell phone break
An April 9 missing person’s report was the first indication something was wrong with Douglas. A initial walkthrough found no evidence of foul play, but a second search found her body covered by clothes and other items in a closet, police said.
The discovery led to another question: who murdered the elderly widow?
A break in the case came about a week later.
Police began investigating Ramsay’s involvement in an alleged carjacking and learned the victim, a 50-year-old-male, possibly met the teen through the dating app Grindr. Ramsay’s mother requested police investigate the man for the possibility of a sexual assault and agreed to turn over to police a cell phone she owned that her son used.
Wadsworth police found images of Douglas on the cell phone. Ramsay later confessed to the crime during an interview conducted by detectives.
Thompson said finding the phone was perhaps the most important and compelling evidence in the case.
“(But) his confession was equally strong,” he said.
The prosecutor said phone records indicate he was in the house for “an excess of two hours.”
Thompson said Ramsay recorded many videos on his phone as “many of the events were taking place — both when she was alive and after her murder. There was clear indication, at one point, at the initiation of the videoing, that she was still alive. There were later videos when she was deceased.”
A possible charge of carjacking was never filed against Ramsay, Thompson said.
“My reasoning was very simple,” he said. “These charges are the most egregious charges anyone can face. Why confuse the issue and expend community tax dollars to prosecute him through the juvenile court while these are pending?”
Planning a murder
Thompson said that Ramsay didn’t just want to rob Douglas.
He wanted to kill her.
He had been writing in a journal for months before the murder, describing fantasies about killing and strangling people.
Ramsay’s attorney tried to suppress the images found on the cell phone, his confession and a subsequent search of his residence that uncovered the journal asserting police obtained all of the evidence in violation of Ramsay’s constitutional rights.
However, after a two-day hearing, Kimbler overruled the defense motions and said there were no constitutional violations, meaning if the case would have went to trial the evidence would be allowed in. Ramsay soon told his lawyer and the prosecution that he intended to change his plea.
Thompson said the real issue is Douglas.
“She lived in that house for over 50 years,” he said. “She lived there her entire married life until her husband passed away in 2000 and continued to live there until she was 98. There’s no way to express how much of a tragedy this is to the Douglas and Ramsay families.”
One of the items Ramsay is accused of taking from Douglas’ house was a red wallet — later found by police in Ramsay’s bedroom.
Still, it was not enough to make Thompson believe it was just a robbery gone wrong.
“The evidence doesn’t support the theory that he entered the house to steal,” he said. “I think the theft of any items from the home were a byproduct of his intentions. As stated in the first count, the evidence suggests his intention to enter the home was to kill her.”
No death penalty
Despite the layered gruesomeness of the crime, Thompson said there is one penalty Ramsay will not face: death.
“He’s 17,” the prosecutor said. “The U.S. Supreme Court said it’s a violation of Article 11 of the U.S. Constitution, that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment to impose a death sentence on a minor.”
Still, he said he believes justice was served for the Douglas family, which was in court Friday. It also gives the family some closure.
“That’s always our goal,” he said. “It’s never enough because it can’t bring back the victim.”
The family did not want to comment on the case.
Ramsay said in court that he doesn’t suffer from any mental illness.
“Do I think he has a mental illness?” Thompson asked. “No. Do I think he has some disturbances? Yes, I do. In my opinion, the reasoning in his mind — why his mind went where it went — is for other far more qualified people than me to evaluate.”
Stefancin asked that her client undergo a mental health evaluation prior to sentencing. Kimbler said it should be done before Dec. 7.
Thompson said after the change of plea, the defendant could file an appeal.
“I suspect part of the motivation is to preserve an appeal,” he said. “By entering a no contest, they have the right to appeal the suppression hearing.”
Kimbler said in court that by pleading no contest, it’s not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgement of the truthfulness and accuracy of all of the allegations contained in the indictment.
Ramsay waived his right to a jury trial, his right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him, his right to subpoena witnesses at a trail, and his right to require the state to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
But he does have the right to appeal a maximum sentence. Any appeal must be filed within 30 days of sentencing.
Thompson said he wanted to stress there is no plea deal.
“His options were to go to trial or plea to the indictment,” he said. “Those were the only options he was afforded.”