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Jupiter hate crime suspect on trial for first-degree murder

Posted at 9:21 PM, May 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-16 19:08:58-04

Prosecutors pulled out a metal pipe, rod, axe, and rock from evidence boxes in a Palm Beach County courtroom they say were used in a hate crime nearly three years ago in Jupiter. 

They're all part of evidence used against David Harris, charged with first-degree murder in the death of Onesimo Lopez-Ramos. Harris' trial began Tuesday and is continuing Wednesday. 

“David Harris and Austin Taggart, and David Harris' brother Jesse Harris and some other young men went prowling the streets of Jupiter, Florida in the early morning hours of April 18, 2015,” said Assistant State Attorney Jill Richstone during her opening statement at Harris’ trial Tuesday.

“Why? They were going ‘Guat hunting,' which means to rob, steal from unsuspecting, unsuspecting, weak Guatemalans,” said Richstone.

Onesimo Lopez-Ramos
Onesimo Lopez-Ramos

The men, while walking in the street, were invited to hang out with Lopez-Ramos and his family in front of their home near the 300 block of 4th St, court records state. A fight broke out between the men and Lopez-Ramos’ group, who and how that fight began is what prosecutors and Harris’ attorney are arguing in court. 

“Austin Taggart is the ‘Guat hunter.’ Austin Taggart is the killer of Onesimo,” said Franklin Prince, Harris’ lawyer. 

Prince said Lopez-Ramos’ older relative, Elmer Lopez- Ramos, had been drinking heavily and started a fight with Harris. He claims Onesimo Lopez-Ramos picked up a metal pipe and swung it at Harris several times. Harris had to defend himself, Prince said.

"David Harris swung that axe one time. He did not kill Onesimo. When Onesimo went down, Austin Taggart jumped on top of Onesimo and he pounded him with a rock, " said Prince.

“He never got up. I wanted him to get up but he never got up,” said Mauda Lopez-Ramos, Onesimo's sister. Mauda Lopez-Ramos said she was inside the home at the time of the attack but didn't hear it. She walked outside after a loud knock on the door, and that's when she said she saw her brother on the ground. 

Richstone said Harris hit Lopez-Ramos with the axe and asked the jury to find him guilty of first-degree murder.  

“Onesimo had just turned 18-years-old,” said Richstone. People who knew Lopez-Ramos described him to WPTV after his death as a nice kid with a bright future.

Harris claimed self-defense last year when he filed a “stand your ground” motion. That motion was denied by Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer in March. 

During the “stand your ground hearing, Harris said he hit Lopez-Ramos in the head with the flat side of an axe once. A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s forensic scientist who analyzed evidence from the scene testified Tuesday that she did not test the flat side of the axe for DNA.

Richstone had the scientist open an evidence box containing the axe Harris allegedly swung. 

Then, a Jupiter Police crime scene investigator opened the boxes containing the pipe and rock used. 

Another scientist and the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner are expected to testify during the trial on behalf of the prosecution. 

Harris is the first of the three men to go to trial for Lopez-Ramos' death. All are charged with first-degree murder and committing a hate crime.