“At the beginning of our trial, during jury selection, the attorneys talked about us being gay as if it were a disease, or something to be frightened of – that we are not human.”
— Cassandra Rivera
This section consists of first-person narratives written by two of the convicted women outlining, in their own words, the accusations, and how their respective convictions came about.
The first narrative – JUSTICE? was written by Elizabeth Ramirez from the Bexar County Jail in July 1997, approximately 5 months after her conviction.
The second narrative – FOUR LIVES LOST was written by Cassandra Rivera in July of 2000, shortly before going to prison.
by Elizabeth Ramirez
Many people, if not all, that are in jail claim to be innocent. However, I not only claim to be innocent of any crime but that the crime I was convicted of, never happened, except in the figment of someone’s imagination. There are two crimes in the United States that if accused of, you must prove your innocence rather than being proved guilty. The first is being caught with too much money on your person, then you must prove it is not drug money, the justice system need not prove that it is. The second is child molestation. If accused of this crime, you not only have to prove that you are innocent but that the crime never happened in the first place. It is almost impossible to prove that something never happened. How do you prove a negative? I have been charged with two offenses, the first of child molestation and the second of indecency with a child. I have been sentenced to 37 and-a-half years for the first and 15 years for the second. The case is presently under motion for a new trial.
Some years ago my older sister, Rosemary, had a live in boyfriend. They had three children, V.L., S.L. and Max. Why they never married is unknown to me. At any rate, her boyfriend, Javier, had always been attentive to me. When I was sixteen Javier wrote letters to me, calling me his “little angel”*. He would also leave songs on our answering machine and bring me food and money. I never thought at the time, but later it could come back to haunt me.
At 19 I ended a relationship with another girl and moved in with my brother Pablo and his wife Frances. During this time Javier would come to visit. During his visits he would tell me how happy he was that I had given up the gay life and decided to go straight. Javier would call on the phone and ask about me and how I was doing. I thought it was a platonic relationship but found out later that he had other things on his mind.
Prior to this, Javier had sent my sister Rosemary and the three children to Denver, Colorado to await him there. He was supposed to have been moving there to accept new employment. He never moved there but when he did come up he wanted to have sex with my sister. Rosemary refused as she had female trouble at the time and he accused her of infidelity and put a gun to her head and said he was taking the children back to San Antonio and that if he ever saw her again he would kill her. The gun was later described, at my trial, as being my gun. When Javier came back to San Antonio, he sued for custody of the children. Rosemary, being sick and afraid to come back to San Antonio did not appear and Javier won custody of the children by default.
So now we are all back in San Antonio except Rosemary. The children are my sister’s and I want to see them as often as I can. I then met and fell in love with Hector, the father of my son. I was working and could afford my own apartment, so I moved out of my brother’s home. My nieces V.L. and S.L. would visit me there and sometimes would spend the night with me. The week after July 23, 1994 the girls, V.L. and S.L. were there for the whole week. This is the period when the alleged molestation took place. On the 23rd of July 1994 I was in a car accident and was taken to an emergency room and they kept me over night for observation. I was told at that time that I was 7 weeks pregnant. When I got home, Javier and the girls came to visit me and I told them I was pregnant. Javier offered to marry me and since the girls and I loved each other already, we could be a happy family. He kept insisting that we would have no trouble if we married and he would love my unborn child as his own. This is when I realized that Javier had been infatuated with me for many years and that he wanted more from me than just to be his “little angel sister”. I didn’t know what to say to him so I said nothing. Looking back I probably should have said something at the time and perhaps I would not be sitting in jail now. At any rate, I gave him no encouragement and he went home.
I had a roommate named Kristy who happened to be gay but our relationship was strictly platonic and this was understood by both of us. Kristy had moved in two weeks prior to the girls coming to stay for that week. Javier knew Kristy, he knew she was gay, and it didn’t bother him that we were roommates as he knew I was leading a straight life. She moved in with me as she didn’t have enough money to rent her own and I could use some help with my rent. Javier knew everyone that would be in my apartment and he still allowed the girls to spend a week with us.
We had a lot of fun that week. Other children in the apartment building would spend the night with us and during that week two other friends, Anna & Cassie and Cassie’s two children, came to stay with us just to have a mini-vacation with the children. Anna and Cassie were lovers at the time but they did not display any of their love in front of the children. Javier knew the entire situation; he had access to my apartment 24 hours a day and could call at any time to talk to his daughters. I believed he trusted me to care for his daughters as if they were my own.
Three of us girls had jobs and had to work, so Kristy would be there with the children when we were working. When the week ended V.L. and S.L. did not want to go home because they did not want the fun to end. As most children are, they too wanted their enjoyment of that week to continue. Being 2 months pregnant, having a house full of guests for a week and having to work full time, I told the girls that I was exhausted and that they would have to go home. I had to borrow Cassie’s car to take the girls home but she said she needed it right back after I delivered the girls. Kristy and I took the girls home and as we drove up to the house Javier was standing by the side of the house. When the girls got out of the car, they were a little moody, as they were still upset that the vacation had come to an end. Javier seemed to be irritated over their reaction to coming home and asked them, “Why don’t you give me a hug?” They reluctantly gave him a hug. We told him we could not stay long as Cassie wanted her car back. He did not seem pleased that we had to leave right then but said nothing and we left. Weeks went by and I continued to talk to Javier and the girls by telephone. Everything seemed to be normal between us.
One day I came home and Kristy said Javier wanted me to call him. I did so at that time and when he answered the phone he said, “I have something very important to tell you.” Then his call-waiting rang, and he switched over to answer the other call. He never came back to me. I tried to get back to him for days. I even called his place of work and left messages for him to call me. He would not return my calls and then he changed his phone number. I then stopped trying to contact him but I still was wondering what was so important that he wanted to tell me. Several weeks went by when one day someone knocked at my front door. I answered it to find a man standing there. He told me his name was detective Matjeka from Homicide. He asked if I would come down to the station to answer some questions. I didn’t know what to think or do, so of course I said yes. I asked if someone had been killed but he did not elaborate as to why or what he wanted me for. At the station, he asked if I knew Javier Limon and his daughters. My first reaction was that Javier had been killed so I started answering his questions. I was expecting him to tell me that someone I knew had been killed. This is when my world collapsed around me. Detective Matjeka looked me right in the eye and told me Javier had accused me of molesting V.L. and S.L. during the week they stayed with me. I was stunned. I adamantly denied it. Detective Matjeka told me he knew I was pregnant and that if I didn’t admit to molesting my nieces he would have my baby taken away from me. He then asked me if I knew Kristy, Cassie and Anna. I said I did. He told me they were also being accused and asked if I thought they were capable of molesting children. I said I didn’t know about anyone else but myself and I didn’t and wouldn’t do such a thing to my own sister’s children. He then brought up the fact that I had a gay relationship in my past. I told him that was over and done with. He then asked about my roommate and if I knew she was gay. I said I did but that had nothing to do with me as she lived her life and I lived mine. We only shared an apartment together to reduce the rent that each of us paid. I continued to tell the truth and denied that any molestation of children took place during my presence. I told him I did absent myself for work but that I was home most of the time after that. The detective strongly insinuated that apparently gay people were child molesters and perverts. He told me to tell Kristy to go down to the station for questioning and then he told me I was free to go. I don’t remember much about the rest of that day. All I remember was crying I was scared and angry at the same time. I could not believe my niece would accuse me of hurting her in any way let alone sexually. I could not understand why their father would put them through such an ordeal just to get back at me for not marrying him but it takes all kinds to make a world, I guess. Since Javier would not talk to me, my brother and his wife went to see him but he would not talk to them or let them see their nieces. Even to this date, none of my family has been allowed to see the girls. What have they to hide if they are telling the truth and I am lying?
I decided to forget Javier and the girls altogether and deal with the pain of my nieces telling such lies about me in my own way. On March 3, 1995 I gave birth to my son. He brought such joy and happiness into my life that I completely forgot that my nieces lied about me. This joy and happiness was short-lived, however, as two weeks after the birth of my son I was arrested on the charge of aggravated sexual assault on a child. Anna and Cassie were also arrested on the same day. Kristy was out of town. I knew I was innocent so I knew, or so I thought, nothing could happen to me. The most painful memory of that day was being separated from my newborn son. The arresting officers would not even let me kiss him goodbye. All I could do was cry as they handcuffed me and put me in the car. I was booked and put in a holding cell. My family arranged for a lawyer and paid my bond. I was released after three days. I went to see my lawyer and he told me not to worry and to trust him and everything would be all right. I believed being innocent I would never be convicted. I concerned myself more with wondering why my nieces would lie about me.
They kept resetting my trial date and I continued to work and take care of my son. I was also paying my lawyer fees, which took a lot of my income, so my son and I moved in with my parents. My lawyer informed me that the girls, V.L. and S.L., claimed that on two consecutive days they were held down and that Kristy, Anna, Cassie and I had inserted objects in their vaginas. They claimed that after the incidents occurred they were on the phone to their father and I held a gun to their heads told them not to tell their father anything. The girls also claimed that Kristy, Anna, Cassie and I were all drunk and smoking marijuana (they called it weed). I was filled with anger and disgust over these accusations. The pain and hurt were gone. These were outright lies and they were so devastating to my character that it cut me deeply. I knew I was innocent so I had nothing to worry about. The oldest girl’s (V.L.) case came up first. The District Attorney made me an offer of 10 years probation if I pled guilty. Being innocent, I rejected it and went to trial. (Some people say I should have taken the offer, but had I done so I would have been a confessed child molester at the second girl’s trial). I doubt if that would have been much help to me. At last my day in court came – February 3, 1997, two-and-a-half years after the alleged incident. I was in a very emotional state as my lawyer told me, after I rejected the plea bargain, that I could get up to 99 years if I were convicted. I believed that the truth would come out at the trial and that I would be going home to my son after the trial. My family was all there in the courtroom to see the proceedings and to support me with their presence. Strangely, Javier and his family did not come to the trial, except for one aunt of his. Javier came on the last day to see me convicted, but did not seem interested in the proceedings. To say the DA’s office was on a witch-hunt is an understatement. They tried to paint me as a sick, perverted, child molester that had used the girls in some sort of gang ritual. I wanted to scream at the world that these were all lies. When V.L. came into the courtroom to testify she looked at me and smiled. I couldn’t believe it. Didn’t she realize what she was doing to me with all of these lies? She also smiled at my mother (her grandmother). Was this some horrible joke? No, it was not. The prosecution put four witnesses on the stand – V.L., her grandmother (Serafina Limon), a physician (Nancy Kellogg) and detective Matjeka (the investigating officer). I was the only witness for the defense. My mother and my sister (the mother of the two girls) were not allowed to testify in my defense. Mrs. Limon said the girls came to her to tell their story. (Her story on the witness stand was inconsistent with her sworn statement). The doctor said that V.L.’s hymen was ruptured, but under cross-examination she admitted that it could have occurred up to 6 years ago. Detective Matjeka stated the testimony he took during the investigation. (My lawyer was not allowed to see the sworn statements he took). V.L. told a story of being held down by me while the other women inserted an object in her vagina. She claimed that I had drunk a 20 oz. tumbler of tequila and I and the other women were smoking weed. She said I held a gun to her head and said “If you ever tell anyone, I will kill you”. When I took the stand I continually denied all the charges. The prosecutor kept asking me to admit I had done these things and I kept denying them. He asked if I had ever been arrested. I said “No.” He then produced an arrest record from Houston, TX that had my name on it. He failed to mention that it was dated the year of my birth. But he tried to convince the jury I was a liar. Finally he said “OK, O.J.” and ended his cross-examination. In his closing argument my lawyer pointed out the many inconsistencies in the prosecution witness’ statements, but to no avail. I was found guilty in less than an hour. The judge told me I would be sentenced the next day. My mother stood up and screamed “No” and was removed from the courtroom.
All my family was crying and I was in total shock. I fainted as they were placing me inside the holding cell. When I awoke I could not believe that the American justice system could be so wrong. The next day the jury sentenced me to 37 and-a-half years for aggravated sexual assault of a child and 15 years, to run concurrently, for indecency with a child. After the sentencing I was allowed five minutes in a small room to say goodbye to my family. Five minutes to hug my parents, to hold my baby, to hug my brothers and sister. Those were the fastest five minutes of my life.
After three attempts the judge finally agreed to give me a retrial**. Its outcome is unknown at this time or even when it will occur. But I pray that it will be a more fair trial with a jury that doesnâ€™t think a girl who had one lesbian relationship in her life is guilty of any heinous crime they can think of.
As of July 1, 1997 I have been in jail a period of 5 months for a crime that I did not commit, or that ever happened. The other three women have not been tried and are still walking the streets of San Antonio. Why was I tried separately for a crime that supposedly four people committed? What kind of game is the District Attorney’s Office trying to play? Do they hope my conviction will help convict the others? Where is the justice in the American Justice system?
(**The retrial Elizabeth mentions never occurred.) The following is a narrative written by Cassandra Rivera in July 2000.
FOUR LIVES LOST
THE TRUTH IS ALL WE WANT
July 03, 2000
Anna Vasquez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, Elizabeth Ramirez.
Hello, my name is Cassandra Rivera and I am speaking on behalf of Kristie Mayhugh, Elizabeth Ramirez, Anna Vasquez and myself. Unfortunately Liz is not able to join us today because she is currently serving a thirty-seven and a half year sentence. Like us, she was convicted of a crime that she did not commit.
During the summer of 1994 is when our story starts. We never thought that visiting Liz would change our lives forever. Myself, Anna and Liz were nineteen and Kristie about twenty-one. Our nightmare began!
Allegations of sexual assault were brought on us by Liz’s nieces, V.L. and S.L., three months* after their visit with their aunt. We were called by a detective and asked to give a statement – they said we were suspects. When I told them I wanted a lawyer present he asked “Why? What are you hiding?” We then, voluntarily, gave a statement took a Polaroid picture, and a polygraph test, which we passed. At no time were we ever read our Miranda Rights.
Six months after that myself, and Anna were arrested at our place of employment. Again our Miranda Rights were never read. The undercover police informed us that they had a warrant, padded us down, and took us away in an unmarked car.
Our families posted bond for us. We have no criminal history, this was the first time we had ever been arrested. In 1997, Liz went to trial. Her attorney was a civil attorney, Freddie Ruiz, he handled a car accident case for her. This accident occurred right before the week that her nieces stayed with her. Herself and three of her friends had flipped in a Bronco landing upside down due to someone cutting them off on the highway. Liz was pregnant and scared that she would lose her unborn baby. She and the others were rushed to BAMC. Knowing of her accident, Liz was convicted in 1997. She is currently in prison in Marlin, Texas.
The attorneys on record for the rest of us were Michael Callaghan, Jose Guerrero and Eddie Garcia. Mr. Callaghan and Mr. Guerrero were clearly not interested in helping us. They wanted us to take a plea bargain of ten year silent, due to the severity of the charges, is what they stated. We refused over and over and after, I’d call it practically badgering, we fired them.
This is when we hired Mr. Fred Rodriguez and Ms. Catherine Babbitt. Mr. Eddie Garcia still being Kristie’s attorney. People called them the “Dream Team”. We always wanted medical experts, psychological testing done, as well as a full investigation to help in proving that nothing ever happened. Even though we had always requested all this, the attorneys never brought any of these things in. The deliberations went on for hour and the jury came out three times saying they could not come up with a verdict. After the third time they asked to be sequestered, after a long night trying to find a hotel room for them, they came back on Saturday morning, Valentine’s Day, within thirty minutes after they arrived they had reached a verdict of guilty.
V.L. and S.L. had been molested in 1992 by a then ten-year-old baby-sitter**. They were residing with their mother in Colorado at the time. The father of the children has accused his ex-wife’s father-in-law before. In fact, there has been incest in the father’s family. His brother John molested his older sister. Did it stop there? This family also has a criminal history behind them, which includes assault and robbery.
At the beginning of our trial, during jury selection, the attorneys talked about us being gay as if it were a disease, or something to be frightened of – that we are not human. If people there had not thought about it as an issue, at the end of jury selection, I’m sure they felt differently. In closing arguments, Mary Kay Delevan (prosecutor) stated that we are gay and the victims are female. After making that statement she said that she would not bring it up or mention it again, but by that time it was too late. The jury had already heard her prejudice comment that she had made.
Being gay does not make us perverts or sick people. Just because we are into the same sex DOES NOT mean that we are going to hurt small children. We need to spread the word that we are normal and humane people just like heterosexuals. We have come a long way but we are still being judged for a lifestyle, that may be different, but we are normal just like everyone else. We love, we care, we hurt, we worry, and we bleed the same blood as everyone else. I pray that you will support us in our time of need. God loves everybody unconditionally.
Thanks for your interest in our cause.
Cassandra Rivera Anna Vasquez Kristie Mayhugh Elizabeth Ramirez
*The exact dates of the alleged assaults have never been clearly determined, but the first statements to their maternal grandmother occurred 6-8 weeks after they last visited with their aunt Elizabeth.
** More than a year after their father claims they made this allegation, a medical exam was undertaken, but no evidence was found to substantiate the claim.