Click photo to enlarge
Police were seeking Caren Ramirez, apparently the boy's aunt who may have had a role in his kidnapping.

SACRAMENTO — The guardian of the 17-year-old boy police say was tortured and abused for the past year in Tracy had previously been arrested on suspicion of beating him with martial arts sticks, a spatula, a broomstick and a clothes hanger in Sacramento County, court documents show.

A previously sealed probation report from Sacramento County Superior Court details alleged abuses committed by Caren Ramirez, 43, who was arrested Tuesday night in Berkeley in connection with the case.

Ramirez had been previously identified as the boy's aunt, but police said late Wednesday that Ramirez is not a blood relation but had been granted custody of the boy by his mother before her death.

Sheriff's deputies responded to two separate calls to Ramirez's Citrus Heights home in an eight-month period from late 2005 to May 2006, in which her 16-year-old stepson, identified in court records as Austin, and the boy known as her nephew, Kyle, reported being beaten by her.

Kyle, the boy discovered in Tracy, had been abused by his father and placed in the care of Ramirez by Children's Protective Services in Sacramento County, said Matt Robinson, a spokesman for the city of Tracy.

The boy was then abused by Ramirez — who was subsequently charged and sentenced in a plea deal — before being moved into a second foster home.

The probation report indicated Kyle had run away from the foster home and had been missing since May 9, 2007.


Advertisement

"His whereabouts have been unknown," the report said.

The boy, emaciated, bloody and covered with cuts, feces and urine, surfaced Monday, stumbling barefoot and barely dressed into a Tracy fitness center, a chain padlocked around his ankle. Shocked employees called 911 as he huddled in a fetal position on the floor. He was hospitalized in Tracy in critical condition and was transferred Wednesday to a medical facility in Sacramento County, where he is in protective custody.

The residents of the Tennis Lane home where the boy told police he had been held — Kelly Layne Lau, 30, and her husband, Michael Luther Schumacher, 34 — and Ramirez are expected to be arraigned today on charges of torture, kidnapping, false imprisonment, child endangerment and corporal injury to a child.

According to Alameda and San Joaquin County court records, Lau and Schumacher do not have criminal records. Their four children, ages 1 to 9, have been placed in protective custody.

In a report dated Jan. 8, 2008, Ramirez's probation officer, Shelli Fischer, wrote that Child Protective Services employee Linda Hush "believed the victim in this case, Kyle, had run away from foster care and was to be living with Caren Ramirez."

Based on reports from Tracy neighbors, Ramirez and the boy had been staying with Schumacher and Lau for about a year.

Ramirez pleaded no contest to one felony count of child abuse last year, but she had three other abuse charges dismissed. She was placed on a work furlough in lieu of a 180-day jail sentence and given five years probation.

Her probation was revoked in April after she failed to participate in a counseling program and missed meetings with her probation officer.

Ramirez is being held in San Joaquin County jail on a no-bail warrant out of Sacramento County.

Schumacher and Lau were being held in the jail's administrative segregation unit to keep them away from the general population. Ramirez was expected to be similarly placed.

According to court records, the signs of abuse on Kyle were clear when sheriff's deputies responded to a call on May 30, 2006, to Ramirez' home in Citrus Heights. Kyle had severe bruising on his buttocks, legs, arms and a split/swollen lip, according to the report.

Kyle told officers Ramirez hit him with martial arts sticks the day before, but had used a spatula, broomstick and a clothes hanger in the past.

Ramirez's then-21-year-old daughter, Christina Sanchez, made the call to the Sheriff's Office reporting the abuses.

Kyle "indicated the defendant gets angry at times and takes her anger out on him," the probation report said.

Eight months earlier, in September 2005, Ramirez's stepson, identified in court documents as 16-year-old Austin, told sheriff's deputies that Ramirez had repeatedly hit him with a martial arts stick in the head and chest.

Austin said that Ramirez told him, "I'm going to (expletive) you up." He said she told him to get on his knees and said, "I heard you're talking (expletive), saying I'm not your mom," then struck him with a martial arts stick and struck him on the head five times as the boy cried and tried to block the blows with his hands.

According to the report, earlier that day, Ramirez had demanded the boy "panhandle" for her, and when he returned with $9, she became upset and started hitting him because he didn't get enough money.

Ramirez denied the allegations, saying her stepson had been practicing with martial arts sticks with a friend. According to the report, she said "she never hits her children and that she loves her kids." No charges were filed in that incident.

Ramirez was arrested late Tuesday at an apartment at 2601 College Ave., a few blocks south of the UC Berkeley campus, police said.

Berkeley police had been alerted by Tracy authorities and went to the apartment about 8:45 p.m. When they knocked on the door, a woman answered and said she was alone in the apartment. But they asked if they could take a look around and she agreed. A quick search found Ramirez in the bathroom, police said, and she was arrested.

When the teenager wandered into the In-Shape Sports Club in Tracy about 3:30 p.m. Monday, he was barefoot, wearing only flesh-color boxers. He had cuts and burns on his back, police said.

Shortly after midnight Tuesday, police served a search warrant on the Tennis Lane home and removed evidence, according to a Tracy city official.

Staff reporters Jeanine Benca, Kristin Bender and Sophia Kazmi contributed to this story. Reach Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101. or sharmon@bayareanewsgroup.com.