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Jupiter man found guilty of killing Guatemalan man in hate crime

Posted at 9:43 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 16:11:56-04

Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramos’ face looked like he came out of a boxing match, beaten and swollen with his eyes still open, according to a Jupiter Police officer that found his body.

Prosecutors say Lopez-Ramos, 18, was killed by three men targeting Guatemalan people they were looking to rob in Jupiter in 2015.  

David Harris was found guilty of first-degree murder while committing a hate crime for Lopez-Ramos’s death. After five days of testimony, a Palm Beach County jury decided the killing was in cold-blood. 

"There's no other appropriate sentence than life," Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer said as she sentenced Harris to life in prison immediately following the guilty verdict. 

"David Harris swung that axe one time. He did not kill Oneismo,” said Franklin Prince, Harris’ attorney during the trial.

Harris maintained the victim swung a pipe at him and Harris hit him with an axe in self-defense. Harris blamed his co-defendant, Austin Taggart, for Lopez-Ramos’ death.

“When Onesimo went down, Austin Taggart jumped on top of Onesimo and he pounded him with a rock," Prince said. 

The three were accused of fighting Lopez-Ramos, fatally striking him with an axe and smashing his face in with a rock in Jupiter.

Harris told detectives after his arrest that Taggart went “Guat hunting,” looking for Guatemalan people to steal from a rob on the night of Lopez-Ramos’ killing. Prosecutors say Harris knew of Taggart’s intent and went walking in Jupiter with a group of “buddies” when they ended at Lopez-Ramos’ house. 

“He came trying to grab me,” Elmer Lopez-Ramos, the victim’s brother, said via a translator in court about Harris. Elmer Lopez-Ramos said he felt threatened when the men arrived, grabbing an axe to defend himself but eventually ran. When he came back to the house, he said he found his brother beaten to death in the street. 

“I touched his pulse. I put my ear up against his nose,” Elmer Lopez-Ramos said.

Mauda Lopez-Ramos, 29, said her brother was in school and was returning home from work on the night of his death. She was inside the home sleeping during the fight but went outside when she woke up to a loud knock on her door. 

“He never got up. I wanted him to get up but he never got up,” Mauda Lopez-Ramos said. 

The family, originally from Guatemala, moved to Jupiter in the early 2000s.

A Jupiter Police officer who responded to the scene testified when he arrived, he saw Lopez-Ramos laying on his back, face up with his eyes open.

"His face looked like the end of a boxing movie,” the officer said in court. More officers arrived and they performed CPR on Lopez-Ramos, without success. 

 Judge Schosberg Feuer denied Harris' “stand your ground” motion earlier this year. 

"The anguish of the county since Onesimo’s murder was addressed yesterday with a 15 year sentence for a hate crime in addition to a life sentence. But if we were satisfied with the verdict, that would be a failure to acknowledge how we and the educational and social services of our community formed these teenagers. We are all accountable for a system that teaches victimization and violence. Our condolences are not only for the family but for the community that taught three young men to meet our workforce with contempt." said Tim Gamwell, Asst. Executive Director at the Guatemalan-Maya Center, inc. 

"There was no violence. There was no threat,” Prince said to Elmer Lopez-Ramos. “You were so drunk you went to get an axe and you eventually took that axe and you cut David Harris hand."

Taggart and Jesse Harris will be tried separately later this summer.

Harris said Elmer Lopez-Ramos squeezed his chest, which is how a fight began. "I was 265 pounds. I was insecure about my weight."

Harris said he chased Lopez-Ramos when Onesimo Lopez-Ramos came at him with a pipe so said he picked up the axe and hit Lopez-Ramos with it

"All I know is he fell down. I was there for about a minute, minute and a half," Harris said. 

Then, he said he heard a boom, which he attributes to Taggart beating Lopez-Ramos’ face with a rock. 

"You cracked his head with such force that is only seen in car accidents," Assistant State Attorney Jill Richstone said. Prosecutors said Taggart hit Lopez-Ramos with a piece of rebar and Harris struck him with an axe. 

“A rock, rebar and an axe were all used on Onesimo as he laid face down in the dirt,” Assistant State Attorney Marci Horwitz-Rex said. Palm Beach County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Bell ruled Lopez-Ramos’ cause of death as blunt force trauma with injuries consistent with being beaten 

“This is not a case of justifiable homicide,” Horwitz-Rex said.

Prince maintained his client was not guilty of first-degree murder or a hate crime, saying their evidence does not match up to what prosecutors are claiming. A jury disagreed.

“I would like to thank the men and women of the Jupiter Police Department who spent countless hours working on this case as well as the community for their continued support during this investigation.  Our collaborated efforts with State Attorney Dave Aronberg and the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office resulted in the successful prosecution of one of the suspects. I hope this guilty verdict brings some small closure to the loved ones of Onesimo Marcelino Lopez- Ramos after the horrific tragedy this family has endured,” Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow said in a statement.

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