To catch a killer: A real look inside a murder investigation

Larry Barker takes you inside a brutal homicide investigation

LOS LUNAS, NM (KRQE) – In the days of black and white television “Perry Mason” set the standard for crime solving good guys. The popular TV drama of the 50’s and 60’s was known for its dramatic courtroom confrontations. In the closing minutes of each episode a skillful Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) always managed to elicit a tearful courtroom confession out of some hapless murderer.

Whether it’s “Perry Mason”, “Murder She Wrote”, or “CSI” that’s how Hollywood solves murder cases. But it never happens that way in the real world. Go behind the scenes of a real police investigation and you get a first-hand look at what homicide detectives are truly up against. It’s a demanding job where the evidence trail often leads to a gritty underworld of guns, drugs and violence.

Consider December 30th, 2015. State Police Agent Ruben Franco was working late at his desk at the State Police office in Albuquerque when the phone rang. “The Administrative Assistant from upstairs called and said ‘Ruben we have a person here who wants to talk about a homicide,'” Agent Franco said.

He was an older gentleman in his 80’s. “He proceeded to tell me a pretty far-fetched story about a homicide,” Franco says. “Have you ever heard the name Casey Ramirez? Well I can tell you now, he’s dead. This guy pumped a clip full of shells into Casey Ramirez,” the informant told Agent Franco in a recorded statement.

The tipster’s details were sketchy at best. He claimed the murder happened somewhere in Valencia County.

“We have an individual that walks into the New Mexico State Police Office and he wants to report a homicide. Mind you, this person hasn’t seen the homicide himself and has no details. All he knows is that he’s heard that someone was killed,” State Police Chief Pete Kassetas says.

“Just the totality of it didn’t make sense to me,” Agent Franco said.

“We didn’t have any missing person’s report. We didn’t have a body. We didn’t have any suspects. We didn’t have any evidence to even lead us to a death investigation,” says State Police Lt. Carolyn Lucero who supervises the Investigations’ Bureau, “We had nothing to start with.”

Despite the lack of even basic information, an investigation was launched. Teams of State Police officers fanned out across Valencia County to try to answer the question: Who is, or was, Casey Ramirez?  According to Lt. Lucero, “Officers (started) knocking on doors of neighbors, family, relatives, friends.”

“Generally we can find the right person who has loose lips, for lack of a better word, and they’ll kind of spill the beans about what really happened. This case was different,” Agent Franco says.

Police Investigators spent weeks canvassing informants across Valencia County looking for clues to the alleged homicide. By mid-January critical details emerged. Detectives learned Casimiro “Casey” Ramirez, also known as “Shadow”, was a well-known drug dealer. Investigators learned, after a dispute with a local couple, Ramirez kidnapped an associate, Renee Foster, and demanded a ransom from her husband, Shane Foster.

Informants say some of the ransom money was paid and Renee was let go. Sometime later Casey Ramirez disappeared.

Nearly a month after the first tip came in detectives got their first break in the case. “We made contact with a female who had firsthand information (of the homicide) and she was the last person to be seen with Casimiro,” Lt. Lucero said.

The female witness said in November she rode in a borrowed Cadillac with Casey Ramirez to Shane and Renee Foster’s Los Lunas residence. The witness said Ramirez went inside. She waited outside in the car.

While waiting for Casey Ramirez to return, “She heard gunshots from inside the residence,” Lt. Lucero said. “After she heard the gunfire she said ‘I need to get out of here,'” Agent Franco adds. “As she is trying to leave the residence somebody exits the residence and starts firing numerous shots at the vehicle she was driving,” according to Franco.

“She sped away and she never saw Casimiro again,” Lt. Lucero says. Now Investigators had first-hand information. State Police Investigators now had evidence something deadly likely happened in the Foster home. The State Police obtained a warrant to search the property.

“We’re looking for any signs of any gunshots, any evidence of blood, anything that would lead us to believe a homicide actually took place there,” Agent Franco said.

State Police CSI Sgt. Rodger Brunson said when the search warrant was served on the Foster home, at first glance, there was nothing visible to indicate a homicide had taken place there. However, after a two-day search, Sgt. Brunson’s team discovered key evidence just inside the front door.

“There was what looked like holes that had been patched with some drywall putty. But it was still visible. … Some kind of hole there (had been) patched,” Sgt. Brunson said. In fact, once the putty was removed it was clear bullets made the holes. The CSI team also found several projectile points embedded in the doors and walls.

After applying a special chemical solution called “Bluestar” to the laminate flooring in the front entrance, the Crime Scene Investigators found evidence of blood that someone had tried to clean up. A later DNA analysis of the blood came back from the Crime Lab as a match to Casey Ramirez.

Sgt. Brunson told KRQE News based on evidence found in the Foster home, “The victim walked into the house and was immediately attacked by gunfire.”

Case Agent Franco said it was time to bring Shane and Renee Foster in for questioning. The State Police Investigation’s Bureau Janice Madrid led the interrogation team. “When I walked into the interview room I knew Shane Foster was involved somehow … in this investigation,” Agent Madrid says.

The videotaped interrogation of Shane Foster lasted almost nine hours. At the beginning of, often times intense interview, Shane Foster denied any involvement in the Ramirez disappearance. However four and a half hours into the police interview, the Los Lunas suspect broke down and confessed to killing Casey Ramirez.

“He came at me with two f**** guns to my f**** head. Do you understand that? You don’t understand that until you’ve been through it,” Shane Foster admitted. When Agent Madrid asked what happened to Ramirez, Foster replied, “I don’t know what happened to him. I know I shot him.” Agent Madrid asked Foster how many times he shot Ramirez? “I have no idea. When he shot at my head, my body just reacted. I don’t have no idea,” Foster said.

“The fact that he stated he shot Casimiro Ramirez was very powerful, very important to the case,” Agent Janice Madrid said. “Quite frankly we had a lot of physical evidence in this case. But to work through that interview and interrogation and that person finally come clean is really the icing on the cake for an investigator,” Chief Kassetas tells KRQE News.

The State Police Investigators now had solid evidence and a confession. The last challenge to the case was to find the body. Following Shane Foster’s confession, he led investigators to a remote site in the Bosque near Veguita, north of Socorro. The next day, a CSI team located the remains of Casey Ramirez buried in a shallow grave.

Shane Foster was arrested and charged with an open count of murder. Renee Foster was charged with tampering with evidence. At trial this past summer, the couple was found guilty. They are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Cindy Mercer at Valencia County’s District Court next week.

Agent Ruben Franco admits this is a homicide investigation that almost never happened. “We didn’t have a missing person. We didn’t have a body. We didn’t have any family members coming forward. We didn’t have really anything to go on. So at that point the decision was almost made not to even look into it further,” Agent Franco says.

“We don’t get to pick and choose our victims,” Chief Kassetas says. “That’s the beauty behind what we do in police work. We work a homicide no matter who that victim is. … This case was about good solid police work. It (started with) very little information up front which led to a comprehensive investigation (and) ultimately a conviction of an individual that took someone’s life, Chief Kassetas says.

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