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Friday, November 16 , 2018, 11:04 pm | Fair 51º


Parents, Attorney Say Santa Maria Stabbing Suspect Needs Mental Health Treatment

Jhordy Ramirez was arrested in May after stabbing his mother and father during what they say was a mental health crisis

Defense attorney David Bixby, right, speaks about his concerns with how the criminal justice system handles people in a mental health crisis. At left are Ricardo Ramirez and Silvia Diaz Ramirez, parents of defendant Jhordy Ramirez, who was arrested after stabbing his parents during a mental health breakdown in May. Click to view larger
Defense attorney David Bixby, right, speaks about his concerns with how the criminal justice system handles people in a mental health crisis. At left are Ricardo Ramirez and Silvia Diaz Ramirez, parents of defendant Jhordy Ramirez, who was arrested after stabbing his parents during a mental health breakdown in May. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Arrested while in the midst of mental health crisis, Jhordy Ramirez of Santa Maria needs help, not jail time, his defense attorney contends.

The 22-year-old is in being kept in isolation at Santa Barbara County Jail awaiting the outcome of his criminal case after being arrested for stabbing his parents in Santa Maria five months ago. 

His arrest came after Ramirez and his parents reached out for help from medical professionals, mental health programs and law enforcement officers in the days before the incident, defense attorney David Bixby said last week.

“It’s a clear example of somebody reaching out trying to get help and not getting it,” Bixby said. “It’s a clear example of the breakdown in the system in various places, not only with the mental health facilities, but in the justice system itself.”

Ramirez was charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest following the stabbing incident on East Newlove Drive in May.

When the case returns to court Oct. 16, the judge is expected to set a date for a jury trial to decide whether Ramirez is mentally competent.

Bixby said he is frustrated at having to hold a jury trial despite receiving two opinions saying Ramirez is not competent, and a third opinion that is neutral.

Jhordy Ramirez Click to view larger
Jhordy Ramirez

The District Attorney’s Office declined to speak about specifics regarding Jhordy’s case.

“Our approach is to look at every case individually,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser said. 

The prosecuting attorneys routinely assess evidence as cases move through the system to ensure justice for victims and to keep the public safe.

The District Attorney’s Office participates with representatives of other agencies and organizations to improve the system and assist those needing mental health treatment, she added.

Health privacy laws prevent Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness representatives from talking specifically about the case, but staff members pointed to the 24-hour access line available for people with a mental health crisis or who just want to ask a question.

A team can be dispatched to help for a crisis call, and otherwise, callers are given an appointment to be seen at the clinic.

The 24-hour toll-free crisis response and service access line can be reached by calling 888.868.1649.

“We want to keep the mentally ill out of jail,” county spokeswoman Gina DePinto said. 

Jhordy’s parents, Ricardo Ramirez and Silvia Diaz Ramirez, stood by their son’s defense attorney to talk about the lack of help for people in a mental health crisis, a situation they say landed their son in the criminal justice system.

Both parents said before the incident, their oldest son had lived a trouble-free life participating in a boxing club, tutoring others in math, and getting good grades in school.

“Math was something he really enjoyed as a subject,” Silvia Diaz Ramirez said through an interpreter. 

In the days before he was arrested, Ramirez and his parents reached out for help from local medical and mental health professionals, but say they didn’t get assistance.

On May 7, he told his mom about hearing voices in his head.

When she asked what those voices were telling him, he replied, “It’s horrible things. I don’t want to tell you what they are. It’s really bad and the headache is really severe.”

On May 12, he attempted to hurt himself with a knife, prompting his parents to intervene and get injured, according to his parents.

Ramirez' mother landed in the Intensive Care Unit for several days while his father had superficial wounds.

The parents said they spoke up now so other parents don’t find themselves in similar circumstances, wanting to see changes in the future.

Ramirez now is receiving psychotropic medication and has accepted visits from his parents.

“He still remains an enigma in the sense of what mental health problems he has, but it’s obvious he has mental health problems,” Bixby said.

The defense attorney said he would like to see his client committed to the Patton State Hospital so a diagnosis can lead to treatment. 

The case is similar to another involving Lompoc’s Troy Hernandez, arrested after experiencing a breakdown amid his first mental health crisis.

In June, a judge sentenced Hernandez to five years of felony probation and gave him credit for time he had already spent in jail while getting diagnosed and treated. He had been arrested two years earlier.

Complaints about the handling of defendants with mental health issues goes beyond Santa Barbara County, with similar concerns heard throughout California, Bixby said.

“I just know (his parents) did everything in their power to try to help him. Jhordy did everything in his power," Bixby said.

"He was cooperative, he was willing to go the hospital, he was willing to do a lot of things to get the help, never got it, and now we have this mess.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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