A Cuban immigrant pleading "not guilty" to heinous crimes against children in his care. Undocumented parents who are afraid to come forward for fear of being deported. An undercover operation that finally resulted in the arrest of one Gerardo Carracedo Ramirez: a well-known, married, trusted church pastor - and possibly - a child rapist.
Gerardo Ramirez’s story first caught my eye in May 2017 because several of the North Florida news outlets wrote a quick rundown of the case. This case stayed in my mind, mostly because of the severity of the crimes: thirteen pending counts of sexual battery and molestation on two females under twelve and possible involvement in forced labor and human trafficking.
Ramirez was born on September 24, 1964 in Cuba. His Facebook page claims that he is a pastor evangelista, and according to his wife’s Facebook profile, Gladys Ramirez has worked at two churches: Anastasia Baptist Church and South Putnam Church. Ramirez’s profile and cover photo are both photos of he and his wife smiling and holding each other.
This is all in sharp contrast to the horror story that unfolded while I read the police reports detailing the victims’ claims.
E.P. and A.P. have been haunting my thoughts all summer. E.P. was 10 years old at the time of the crimes and A.P. was only eight years old.
The alleged crimes vary, but the main victim seems to have been E.P., the oldest child. Ramirez allegedly penetrated her with his fingers and penis both vaginally and anally. One of the instances was even while E.P. was riding in the car with Ramirez. He pulled over into a gas station while her younger sister, A.P. and Ramirez’s wife, Gladys, slept in the car.
A.P. witnessed many of the attacks on her sister, but the two girls were frightened into silence. Ramirez would beat E.P. if she cried or screamed, and often threatened to report her family to immigration officials. (E.P. and her family are from Guatemala and still in the process of becoming United States citizens.)
Of course one of my first questions was, How did this happen?
E.P. and A.P.’s parents apparently faced their fears of deportation and told the Putnam County Sheriff’s office in April of 2017 that they feared Ramirez was victimizing their children. According to the sheriff’s office, Ramirez may have been attacking children of other undocumented Hispanic families because their vulnerable immigration status makes them reluctant to come forward.
Ramirez was arrested on May 18, 2017 around 10pm. He pleaded “not guilty” on June 30, 2017. On October 10 I attended his pre-trial hearing at the Putnam County Courthouse.
He looked different from the photos on his Facebook profile: older, and he has a thick black mustache instead of a clean-shaven face. He looked tired and he was definitely balder than in his photos. When he walked into the courtroom, chained around his waist and handcuffed, wearing a plain, dark blue prison jumpsuit, he immediately looked around the courtroom. That’s when I realized I was only sitting one person away from his wife and another woman who was obviously accompanying her.
His face lit up when he saw her, and he spent the next 45 minutes looking back and smiling at her and making kissy faces.
His attorney, Stephanie Park, requested and was granted a 60-day delay on the case. She said that she was having a challenging time investigating because the victims, their parents and Ramirez himself don’t speak English. His next pre-trial hearing is set for December.
Ramirez is being charged with five capital offenses for sexual battery on a person less than 12 years old and one felony offense for lewd/lascivious molestation on a person under 18 years old. The felony offense, if he is convicted with it, will stick him in prison for life.
My next question was, Why? If Ramirez really did commit these heinous crimes against innocent children, why did he do them? And if he is convicted of them but doesn’t get life in prison, will he get some type of clinical help when he is released from jail so he doesn’t violate anyone again?
I interviewed John Davis, a sex offender therapist in North Florida.
Katherine: How long have you been doing sex offender therapy?
John Davis: I guess about seven or eight years. I’ve been a qualified practitioner now for about going on three years.
Katherine: When you’re doing a treatment with somebody, how long does it last? Like for example, an adult male who got out of jail, how long do you work with him?
John Davis: It’s really individualized but I would say the average length of stay for active phase of treatments for an adult population is two to three years.
Katherine: Have you found that it seems to work with people?
John Davis: That’s one of the most difficult questions to answer. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know what somebody’s going to do in the future. As part of our treatment we utilize polygraph examinations and so we’re seeing if they’re abiding by their safety mandates, and being truthful and honest in treatment, and so I would say most of them do.
Katherine: How do you think people become sex offenders?
John Davis: There’s not one thing, I mean, if you can figure that out then you could save and help people out there. So we just look at correlates. We look at correlates of risky behaviors and when the evidence says that these correlations, such as hyper sexuality, use of substance abuse, somebody who has been abused themselves, it's not causality, it’s a correlation.
Mr. Davis went on to explain that sex offenders are treated a lot like recovering drug addicts. Once they are released from jail and during and after their treatment, they are told to avoid high-risk situations. While a drug or alcohol abuser is told to avoid a bar or a previous hangout spot where they used to do drugs, sex offenders are told to avoid places where they may be triggered into reoffending. This could be anything from a children’s playground to a strip club to a pornography website.
Like Mr. Davis said, there’s no way to know whether the treatment will work or not.
Because of the nature of an ongoing criminal investigation involving not just Putnam County Sheriff’s Office but also the FBI and Homeland Security, the Sheriff’s Office and all government departments involved declined to comment for this story.
I will post another update as the trial continues, and hopefully Ramirez’s family, the victims’ family and the churches where Ramirez’s wife worked will be available for comment in the near future.