Prison for man who murdered his tot and fled country
A man who murdered his 11-month-old son — and who fled the country before the tot was even pronounced dead — must serve at least 30 years in prison for his crime.
Yohan Ramirez-Herrera, 32, pleaded guilty Monday in York County Court to third-degree murder, aggravated assault and flight to avoid apprehension. A charge of first-degree murder was dismissed, according to court records.
As part of a negotiated plea agreement, Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock sentenced Ramirez-Herrera to 30 to 60 years in state prison, court records state.
Ramirez-Herrera's son, Yohandi Ramirez, suffered three skull fractures, brain bleeding and brain damage, a spinal-cord injury to his neck, 21 rib fractures that mostly were between three and eight weeks old, a healing upper-arm fracture, bleeding in his eyes and numerous bruises all over his head and back, according to testimony from Dr. Wayne Ross, a forensic pathologist with the Dauphin County Coroner's Office.
Ross testified to the child's injuries at Ramirez-Herrera's preliminary hearing in April.
"This child had multiple impacts to the head," Ross said, and he also was strangled.
The background: Yohandi was taken to York Hospital Oct. 1, 2011, and almost immediately flown by medical helicopter to Hershey Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead three days later, according to testimony.
York County Detective Dana Ward was assigned to investigate. Ward is now a York County detective, but at the time of the child's death was a York City Police detective first class in charge of the department's child-abuse and sex-crimes unit.
"I learned that ... the defendant had left the country," Ward testified in April, adding Ramirez-Herrera flew to the Dominican Republic from JFK Airport on Oct. 3, 2011.
Tough extradition: "So he left the United States before Yohandi was pronounced dead?" chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday asked.
"Yes, sir," Ward confirmed.
After the April hearing, Sunday told The York Dispatch that despite the "very aggressive" intervention of the U.S. Marshals Service, it took years to have Ramirez-Herrera extradited from his native Dominican Republic — even after marshals knew his location in that country.
In fact, the defendant was in custody six to eight months there before being extradited, Sunday said.
No death penalty: Part of the extradition agreement required the York County District Attorney's Office to agree not to seek the death penalty against Ramirez-Herrera, Sunday has said. He confirmed the death penalty was under consideration prior to that agreement. Had the prosecution not agreed, Ramirez-Herrera would not have been extradited, Sunday said.
Yohandi's mother, Celinas Monegra, testified in April that she, her two sons and the defendant all shared one bedroom in the apartment of her mother and stepfather, located in the first block of South Penn Street.
Through a Spanish-speaking interpreter, Monegra said she got out of the shower Sept. 29, 2011, and saw Ramirez-Herrera holding Yohandi, who was purple and not breathing.
Ramirez-Herrera did CPR on the baby, who began breathing again, she said. But Ramirez-Herrera would not allow her to call 911 or even leave their bedroom for two days, with the exception of a quick trip to pick up food, she said.
No phone: "I didn't have a phone," she said, and she had no access to a computer.
"I wanted to get help, but he wouldn't let me out of the room," she said. Charging documents allege Ramirez-Herrera was very controlling of Monegra and used violence to maintain that control. Those documents also allege he tried to convince her to have an abortion when she was pregnant with Yohandi.
Although Yohandi was breathing again, he was not active, Monegra has said, adding that Ramirez-Herrera would not allow visiting friends and family members to see the baby.
On Oct. 1, 2011, Yohandi stopped breathing again, and Ramirez-Herrera picked him up, according to Monegra.
"That's when I was able to get out of the bedroom," she testified. "I told my mom Yohandi couldn't breathe, and I called 911."
Didn't wait: While she was on the phone with 911, Ramirez-Herrera left their home with Yohandi, she said.
"He just took off, with only the Pamper on the baby. He left for the hospital. He didn't wait for the ambulance to come."
After the medical helicopter picked up Yohandi to fly him to Hershey, Ramirez-Herrera drove Monegra there, she said. Once at that hospital, he admitted hurting their baby, she testified.
"He told me that I was a good mother and he was responsible ... that he had hit the child," Monegra said, adding Ramirez-Herrera indicated he was going to look for an attorney.
Two days later, he left the country while his son was still on life support, police said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.