Raphael Ramey cursed, yelled, and swore some more. This mechanic Eddie had demanded money to fix his car, a job that was supposed to be done two months ago. Ramey had bought the 1970 Chevy, an iconic red and white Impala, on June 17, 2009, as a birthday present for himself. He’d spotted it at Classic and Luxury Street Concepts, a scruffy used car lot in Oceanside. The 23-year-old salesman, Charles Williams, promised he’d get the bushings fixed.
Ramey, a 20-year-old Marine based at Camp Pendleton, was tired of waiting. He was more than tired. He was enraged. Ever since he’d bought the car, Williams had been saying it would be ready in two more weeks. “He was lying to me every day,” Ramey later told police.
Ramey found out that his car was at Eddie’s Automotive Repair, a few blocks down South Coast Highway from the used car lot. When he arrived at Eddie’s, the Impala was up on the lift with the wheels off.
The mechanic told Ramey that Williams had brought the car to him in July — a month after Ramey had bought it. Eddie said he’d heard Williams’s girlfriend say she wanted it for herself, but Williams told her the car was a piece of shit and not worth keeping.
Ramey first visited Eddie’s Automotive Repair on Friday afternoon, August 14. His second visit was a week later, on Saturday, August 22, at about 10:00 a.m., when he confirmed that his car still wasn’t fixed.
Ramey had planned to see the car salesman that morning, but he changed his mind and canceled the 9:00 a.m. appointment. Instead, at about 9:30, Ramey and his friend and fellow Marine, 19-year-old Xavier Adams, went shopping. The two Marines looked similar, with shaved heads, round faces, and eyeglasses, but Ramey, at 6ʹ1˝ and 180 pounds, was a full head taller than his pal Adams, who was 5ʹ8˝and 165 pounds.
The two men went to Walmart, where they bought two Winchester folding knives, approximately six inches long.
Ramey could hardly sleep Saturday night, he was so angry. He hadn’t slept well in two weeks. He later told police he’d had dreams about harming Williams.
Ramey told Adams he wanted to go “jack” him. Adams later told police he thought they were just going to go there and whoop the salesman’s ass or beat him up or scare him.
Adams said he told Ramey that if you just beat him up, he knows us, he’s going to go ahead and report it to the police. And Adams pointed out, if you kill him, you’re not going to get your car.
The car lot was normally closed on Sundays, but Ramey arranged to meet Williams at 12:45.
Ramey and Adams got a ride to the lot. Their friend dropped them off and left. Williams again apologized and promised that the Impala would be ready in two weeks. The three men walked around the lot, talking and looking at cars.
After Ramey pretended to accept the “two more weeks” excuse again, he asked to use Williams’s phone to call for a ride. Ramey called his own number at 1:09 p.m.
Adams was standing just outside the door of Williams’s small office, situated in the center of the lot. Adams had his own knife to make sure Williams, who was a fit 5ʹ10½˝ and 223 pounds, wouldn’t get past him.
Ramey stepped out of the office. “Let’s go in,” Ramey whispered. “Let’s get him.”
Adams responded, “Man, are you sure you want to do this? Because, honestly, how are we going to get back to the house?”
Ramey later remembered Adams’s words after the attack started: “No, don’t, don’t do it.”
According to Adams, when the attack occurred, his reaction was that he couldn’t believe Ramey had done it.
Dr. Steven Campman counted 54 “sharp force injuries” on the victim during the autopsy, which took two days to complete. Eighteen were “true stab wounds,” not just lacerations. Campman said it would have taken more than 20 minutes for the victim to “bleed out.”
Ramey and Adams left the car lot in Williams’s silver 2003 four-door Cadillac DeVille.
They drove about four miles to the Westfield shopping mall in Carlsbad. Ramey felt that his shirt and shoes were too bloody to wear; Adams thought the blood didn’t show much on his own dark clothing. Ramey bought a shirt for himself at the Champs store. The store surveillance video recorded the purchase, made at 2:16 p.m. Ramey was bleeding so much from a cut on his hand that the saleswoman noticed and gave him a bunch of paper towels. When Ramey pulled out a wad of cash to pay for his shirt, he got blood on the money, and the saleswoman set the bloody money aside, not putting it in the till with the other money.
Ramey phoned his father about 4:21 p.m. to ask him to send $400 to a Western Union. He planned to drive to Texas, where Ramey and Adams were from. But the Western Union closed before they got there.
That night they drove to a friend’s apartment in Fallbrook, where Ramey finally got a good night’s sleep, his first in weeks.
Oceanside police met Ramey and Adams about 8:00 a.m. the next morning, when the two went out to the stolen Cadillac, which was parked at the curb outside the apartments. From the trunk of the car police recovered a pair of bloody Nikes, two knives, and bloody clothing.
Ramey was interviewed at Oceanside police headquarters by Detective Bill Weese, who eased into the task at hand.
“Let’s start from the beginning,” said Weese, “and tell me how your day began.”
“I did it,” responded Ramey. “I did the homicide.” He spoke calmly. “I’m totally a different person when I’m mad.”
Ramey described attacking Williams as the salesman sat in a chair at his desk. At one point, Williams wrested the knife away, and Ramey was cut in the struggle.
Adams described himself to police as a lookout man who guarded the door of the salesman’s office before the attack began. “I was, like, all right, I got your back,” Adams told investigators. “He did his thing. I was there, watching most of it.”
He told police that he’d stabbed Williams. “I did admit I did stab him a few times,” Adams said in the recorded interview. A detective repeated this statement back to Adams, and the Marine replied, “Yes, sir.”
Adams said he did not know the name of the man who was killed.
At the preliminary hearing on October 15, 2009, the prosecutor played the defendants’ video recording of their police interviews. Defense attorneys focused their attention on persuading the judge to dismiss the special allegations that the prosecutor was pursuing, concerned that the district attorney would seek the death penalty.
At the end of the hearing, superior court judge Joan Weber said of Ramey, “If he wanted to kill the victim, he could have just stuck the knife one time in his heart, and it would have been over. He wanted to stab every inch of this man’s body and kick him and smash his head. And there’s only one reasonable conclusion you can draw from that type of violence.”
Judge Weber ordered both men held on one murder charge and three special allegations: lying in wait, carjacking, and robbery. Ramey was charged with an additional special allegation of torture. The district attorney’s office later decided against pursuing the death penalty. Both defendants now face life in prison if convicted of current charges.
Both men have pleaded not guilty.
On October 18, Judge Weber okayed the bifurcation of the murder trial: the men will be tried separately. Adams’s trial is scheduled for January 25, Ramey’s for March 8. The defendants are next expected in Judge Weber’s Vista courtroom for a hearing on January 5.