tseipel@mercurynews.com

SAN JOSE -- Late last year, not long after she'd moved with her 10-year-old son into a first-floor apartment at 940 N. First St. -- just across from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, less than a mile from the San Jose Police Department -- a neighbor heard Sandra Cruzes-Gonsalez arguing in her kitchen with a man.

"They were shouting at each other," said the woman, who asked not to be named out of fear of her safety. "It was very loud. She told him, 'You need to get a job and get the (expletive) out of here! You need to leave!'"

But the man with the goatee -- the man whose face the neighbor said matched the police photo of Juan Ramirez -- kept coming back, she said.

About 2:30 p.m. Friday, police say, Ramirez, an ex-boyfriend whom Cruzes-Gonsalez had stopped dating two years ago but feared so much that she got a restraining order against him, made his final visit.

And within an hour she was dead.

The murder occurred in broad daylight, next to a Togo's sandwich shop, where witnesses saw a man attacking the 29-year-old mother.

In the parking lot of her home, just a few feet from her black Nissan Xterra, with its matching string of crystal and black rosary beads dangling from the rearview mirror, Cruzes-Gonsalez was stabbed multiple times with what one witness described as a butcher knife.


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By the time neighbor Lowell Fulsom, 71, made his way to the scene, he could see a pool of blood seeping from Cruzes-Gonsalez' side onto the asphalt. A pair of women's black boots was nearby, and a piece of material was pressed against her body where the paramedics had tried to staunch the bleeding.

"They were trying to keep her alive; they were trying to get her to breathe,"Fulsom recalled Saturday.

But Cruzes-Gonsalez died at San Jose's Valley Medical Center at 3:15 p.m., the city's 10th homicide this year.

"She was doing all the right things and trying to protect herself from this individual,"said San Jose police Sgt. Jason Dwyer, adding that investigators have since learned from friends and relatives that Ramirez "was always in the background."

"He would not leave her alone," Dwyer said. "She did everything she could, and she was still killed."

A sister of Cruzes-Gonsalez contacted by this newspaper Saturday night said Ramirez is not the father of the 10-year-old boy. But she declined to comment further on the tragedy, saying the family was too distraught to talk.

An intensive statewide manhunt continued Saturday for Ramirez, 25, who police believe may be heading to Mexico driving a dark green, 1996 Toyota T-100 pickup truck.

Witnesses Friday told police they watched the suspect run away from the scene, jumping over a nearby fence into the neighborhood just east of the parking lot.

The San Jose Police Department's Metro Special Operations team -- wearing body armor and with police dogs in tow -- went door to door and through backyards but couldn't find Ramirez.

At a brief news conference Saturday, Dwyer said police had executed search warrants, but would not divulge the results. Nor would he discuss Ramirez' previous criminal record or personal history.

The neighbor who heard Ramirez and Cruzes-Gonsalez fighting said she'd often see Cruzes-Gonsalez dart in and out of her apartment, seemingly wary of her surroundings.

"She was always on the lookout," the neighbor said. "She looked scared. I'm so sorry about this. It's so sad."

John Nguyen, who has owned an insurance agency across from the apartment complex for 32 years, said that since she'd moved in a few months ago, he'd often exchanged pleasantries with Cruzes-Gonsalez and her son because Nguyen parked his car in the same carport.

He said she would take her son to school every day and that the son often played soccer with another boy his age in the apartment parking lot. He said he thought Cruzes-Gonsalez worked for a local garbage company.

"She was very friendly -- she always had a smile," said Nguyen, who on Friday was alerted to the crime when one of his customers called him after being blocked from entering the Togo's parking lot by police.

"It's pretty sad," Nguyen said. "In one day, this happens to her, and what about the child? Now there is no mother."

Anyone with information about the killing is asked to contact San Jose police Detective Sgt. Ray Avalos or Detective John Barg in the Homicide Unit at (408) 277-5283. Anyone with information about the case is also urged to call Silicon Valley CrimeStoppers at (408) 947-STOP (7867) or to go to www.tipsubmit.com and be eligible for a cash reward.

Contact Tracy Seipel at 408 275-0140.