Gavon Ramsay

Victim: Margaret Douglas, 98

Age at time of murder: 17

Crime date: April 9, 2018

Crime location: Wadsworth, Ohio

Murder method: Strangulation

Murder motivation: Thrill & enjoyment

Convictions:  Aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, kidnapping, & abuse of a corpse

Sentence:  Life without parole (LWOP)

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Grafton Correctional Institution

Offender Photo
Prison photo

Summary

On April 9, 2018, Ramsay, 17, broke into Margaret’s Wadsworth, Ohio, home. He found the 98-year-old sleeping on the couch and took video of her. Ramsay, who had been writing about raping and murdering people for months, and who wanted to kill someone to see how it would feel, strangled Margaret to death. He then abused her dead body for over two hours, taking photographs and videos along the way. Several of the photographs Ramsay took were of a sexual nature. Ramsay then stuffed her body in a closet and left her there.

Ramsay was sentenced to life without parole. He appealed and his sentence was upheld.

Details

Margaret Douglas

Prosecutor: Gavon Ramsay “fascinated” by murder and wanted to kill Margaret Douglas (UPDATED)

MEDINA — A potential serial killer in training could be off the streets for a long time.

That’s how Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson said he feels about Gavon Ramsay, the 17-year-old Wadsworth teen found guilty Friday in the murder of 98-year-old Margaret Douglas, also of Wadsworth.

The teen appeared in Medina County Common Pleas Court on Friday where he withdrew a previous plea of not guilty and entered a plea of no contest to nine counts in connection with the brutal killing of the widow who lived alone on Portage Street.

Thompson said after the plea hearing that in his opinion, Ramsay “seemed to be on his way down that path (to becoming a serial killer). He seemed fascinated with it, by the whole concept.”

Ramsay pleaded no contest to four courts of aggravated murder; two counts of murder; one count of aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony; one count of kidnapping, a first-degree felony; and one count of abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony.

Judge Joyce V. Kimbler set sentencing for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 3. Ramsay faces the possibility of life without parole, which is something Thompson said he will push for at sentencing.

“I don’t think it’s a big secret,” he said. “I’m asking for life without parole.”

Public Defender Jocelyn Stefancin said no agreements were reached in respect to sentencing before Friday’s plea hearing. She had no additional comments.

When Kimbler asked Ramsay if he understood the murder charges, the teen replied, “I caused the death of Margaret Douglas.”

Police found Douglas’ body April 9 in a closet during a second walkthrough of her home after she was reported missing earlier in the day. The body was concealed by various items and clothing. She died in the early hours of April 6, police have previously said.

Wadsworth police Lt. Dave Dorland said it is believed Douglas was strangled.

Ramsay was indicted May 22 by a county grand jury and initially pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and awaited trial in the Medina County Juvenile Detention Center.

The plea change came three days before the jury trial was set to begin Monday.

What happened April 6?

Early in the case Kimbler issued a gag order that silenced both sides and kept many of the details of the April murder under wraps.

Kimbler lifted that order Friday.

Stefancin objected to no avail. Thompson said the reason for the gag order was to protect a potential jury pool.

“That issue is now behind us,” he said.

As such, after the hearing Thompson laid out the details of the grisly crime.

Ramsay entered an unlocked back door at Douglas’ house at 359 Portage St., Wadsworth, Thompson said.

“(Ramsay) videoed her while she was asleep on the couch in the living room,” the prosecutor said.

Although police have video evidence in the case, Thompson said Ramsay didn’t record himself actually strangling the 98-year-old woman as he used both hands.

He undressed the elderly woman and abused her corpse. She wasn’t sexually assaulted.

The clothing she was wearing was found in the closet with her body.

Ramsay wore food service-type gloves — loose-fitting plastic gloves — while in the house. The gloves appeared in some of the short videos he made, Thompson said.

When Douglas was found and police were searching her home, court documents said police found a white plastic glove in a flower bed by the back door of her home.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation tested the glove and confirmed DNA from Douglas as well as Ramsay’s DNA on both the inside and outside of the glove.

Cell phone break

An April 9 missing person’s report was the first indication something was wrong with Douglas. A initial walkthrough found no evidence of foul play, but a second search found her body covered by clothes and other items in a closet, police said.

The discovery led to another question: who murdered the elderly widow?

A break in the case came about a week later.

Police began investigating Ramsay’s involvement in an alleged carjacking and learned the victim, a 50-year-old-male, possibly met the teen through the dating app Grindr. Ramsay’s mother requested police investigate the man for the possibility of a sexual assault and agreed to turn over to police a cell phone she owned that her son used.

Wadsworth police found images of Douglas on the cell phone. Ramsay later confessed to the crime during an interview conducted by detectives.

Thompson said finding the phone was perhaps the most important and compelling evidence in the case.

“(But) his confession was equally strong,” he said.

The prosecutor said phone records indicate he was in the house for “an excess of two hours.”

Thompson said Ramsay recorded many videos on his phone as “many of the events were taking place — both when she was alive and after her murder. There was clear indication, at one point, at the initiation of the videoing, that she was still alive. There were later videos when she was deceased.”

A possible charge of carjacking was never filed against Ramsay, Thompson said.

“My reasoning was very simple,” he said. “These charges are the most egregious charges anyone can face. Why confuse the issue and expend community tax dollars to prosecute him through the juvenile court while these are pending?”

Planning a murder

Thompson said that Ramsay didn’t just want to rob Douglas.

He wanted to kill her.

He had been writing in a journal for months before the murder, describing fantasies about killing and strangling people.

Ramsay’s attorney tried to suppress the images found on the cell phone, his confession and a subsequent search of his residence that uncovered the journal asserting police obtained all of the evidence in violation of Ramsay’s constitutional rights.

However, after a two-day hearing, Kimbler overruled the defense motions and said there were no constitutional violations, meaning if the case would have went to trial the evidence would be allowed in. Ramsay soon told his lawyer and the prosecution that he intended to change his plea.

Thompson said the real issue is Douglas.

“She lived in that house for over 50 years,” he said. “She lived there her entire married life until her husband passed away in 2000 and continued to live there until she was 98. There’s no way to express how much of a tragedy this is to the Douglas and Ramsay families.”

One of the items Ramsay is accused of taking from Douglas’ house was a red wallet — later found by police in Ramsay’s bedroom.

Still, it was not enough to make Thompson believe it was just a robbery gone wrong.

“The evidence doesn’t support the theory that he entered the house to steal,” he said. “I think the theft of any items from the home were a byproduct of his intentions. As stated in the first count, the evidence suggests his intention to enter the home was to kill her.”

No death penalty

Despite the layered gruesomeness of the crime, Thompson said there is one penalty Ramsay will not face: death.

“He’s 17,” the prosecutor said. “The U.S. Supreme Court said it’s a violation of Article 11 of the U.S. Constitution, that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment to impose a death sentence on a minor.”

Still, he said he believes justice was served for the Douglas family, which was in court Friday. It also gives the family some closure.

“That’s always our goal,” he said. “It’s never enough because it can’t bring back the victim.”

The family did not want to comment on the case.

Ramsay said in court that he doesn’t suffer from any mental illness.

“Do I think he has a mental illness?” Thompson asked. “No. Do I think he has some disturbances? Yes, I do. In my opinion, the reasoning in his mind — why his mind went where it went — is for other far more qualified people than me to evaluate.”

Stefancin asked that her client undergo a mental health evaluation prior to sentencing. Kimbler said it should be done before Dec. 7.

Thompson said after the change of plea, the defendant could file an appeal.

“I suspect part of the motivation is to preserve an appeal,” he said. “By entering a no contest, they have the right to appeal the suppression hearing.”

Kimbler said in court that by pleading no contest, it’s not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgement of the truthfulness and accuracy of all of the allegations contained in the indictment.

Ramsay waived his right to a jury trial, his right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him, his right to subpoena witnesses at a trail, and his right to require the state to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

But he does have the right to appeal a maximum sentence. Any appeal must be filed within 30 days of sentencing.

Thompson said he wanted to stress there is no plea deal.

“His options were to go to trial or plea to the indictment,” he said. “Those were the only options he was afforded.”

Wadsworth teen sentenced to life in prison for strangulation death of elderly neighbor

By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal
Posted Jan 4, 2019

MEDINA Seventeen-year-old Gavon Ramsay sneaked into his 98-year-old neighbor’s house through an unlocked door and took video of her sleeping on the couch.

Wearing plastic gloves, the Wadsworth teen strangled Margaret Douglas until she took her last breath and then spent two hours taking more videos and photographs of her corpse, including several of a sexual nature.

He then stuffed her body in a small closet, covered her with clothes and a vacuum cleaner and returned to his home five doors down before his parents awoke at 5 a.m.

These were among the brutal details of Douglas’ April 6 death that Medina County Common Pleas Judge Joyce Kimbler pointed to Thursday when she sentenced Ramsay to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Because of his age, this was the maximum possible sentence.

Kimbler said she found Ramsay to be “irreparably corrupt” and “unfit to reenter society.”

“This crime was depraved and premeditated and of a nature not previously seen in this community,” the judge said.

Ramsay showed little emotion when Kimbler announced her decision after a long and emotional court hearing that included testimony from the teen’s parents — who blame his actions on mis-prescribed prescription drugs. Stephen Ramsay, his father, wiped tears from his eyes in the back of the courtroom.

Ramsay plans to appeal.

Ramsay pleaded no contest and was found guilty in November of all of the charges against him, which included aggravated murder, murder, aggravated burglary, kidnapping and gross abuse of a corpse. He was automatically bound over from juvenile to adult court because of the severity of the charges, but didn’t face the death penalty because he was under 18.

Media and loved ones of both Ramsay and Douglas packed the courtroom Thursday for the sentencing. The hearing lasted 4½ hours, with Kimbler hearing from witnesses called by both sides in a rare mitigation hearing requested by Ramsay’s attorney.

Lynne Luna Jones, the chief forensic psychologist for the Psycho-Diagnostic Clinic who performed a court-ordered evaluation of Ramsay in November, testified that she diagnosed the teen with seven disorders. This included conduct disorder and sexual sadism disorder. She deemed his prognosis for rehabilitation “guarded,” which is in the middle of a spectrum in which “poor” is worst and “good” is best.

Jones concluded that Ramsay’s aggressive behaviors have increased, he doesn’t appear to want to change his behavior and he shows a “callous disregard for the harm he causes.” She recommended he undergo individual counseling, sex offender treatment and substance abuse treatment.

Christine Ramsay, Ramsay’s mother, however, tried to provide a more personal look at her son’s struggles when she took the stand. She acknowledged that her son has been in and out of trouble and counseling for the past 10 years. She said he returned to therapy last January after his school principal reported the teen was depressed and might harm himself.

Christine said the psychologist recommended that her son be put on medication, and the family’s pediatrician prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft. From January through March, she said, the pediatrician increased the amount of the drug the teen was taking.

During this time, Christine said she observed her son’s behavior change, with him becoming increasingly irritable and hostile and saying bizarre things.

Christine said she continued taking her son to counseling but didn’t know what else to do. After his arrest, she said she researched Zoloft and discovered the drug isn’t recommended to treat depression in juveniles. She contacted the pediatrician and had her son taken off the drug.

“If I could change one thing, I would never have agreed to put my son on Zoloft,” she said, getting teary.

Listening to his mother, Gavon Ramsay sniffled and became teary, the most emotion he showed during the hearing. Most of the time, he stared straight ahead or sat with his eyes downcast. That included when he listened to remarks from Cindy and Patricia Leasure, the niece and great-niece of Douglas.

Cindy Leasure described her aunt as an active 98-year-old who loved reading, gardening and still handled her own finances. She said Douglas was looking forward to turning 100 and everyone expected her to make it to that age.

Cindy and her husband, Howard, found Douglas’ body when police asked them to check on the house.

“I can’t even describe in words the horror that was,” Cindy Leasure said.

Patricia Leasure called Gavon Ramsay a coward who preyed on someone more vulnerable. She thinks he used her great-aunt as a warmup for the others he had written in a notebook that he wanted to kill.

“He is not safe to be on the streets,” she said. “He will hurt people again. He will kill people again.”

Thompson echoed these remarks when he urged Kimbler to sentence Ramsay to life without parole. He noted that Ramsay stored the images of Douglas’ death on his phone in a secret file called “dark” with the password “murder” and looked at them multiple times.

“It was cold, it was calculated, it was purposeful,” Thompson said. “By his own admission, if he hadn’t been stopped, he would have killed again.”

Ramsay apologized for what he did in a brief statement he read before he was sentenced. He said he doesn’t know how to explain what happened or why.

“I’d take it back in a heartbeat if I could,” he said. “I feel terrible for what I’ve done and I will never do anything like that again … I constantly life in regret and shame because of it.”

Wadsworth teen Gavon Ramsay sentenced for brutal murder of 98-year-old neighbor Margaret Douglas

On January 3, Gavon Ramsay, 17, of Wadsworth was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the brutal murder of 98-year old Margaret Douglas last April in her Portage Street home.

Ramsay pleaded ‘no contest’ to nine counts in connection with the murder in a Medina County court appearance last November Second, three days before his trial was set to begin. Ramsay’s attorney plans to appeal the sentence handed down by Judge Joyce Kimbler, which was the maximum allowed under state law.

Ramsay was charged as an adult and was found guilty of four counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of kidnapping and one count of gross abuse of a corpse.

The sentencing hearing took almost five hours to complete.

State v. Ramsay, 2020 Ohio 1203

{¶2} Mr. Ramsay murdered a 98-year old woman after breaking into her house. He then abused her corpse before stuffing it into a hall closet. He was 17 years old at the time. A few weeks later law enforcement found video evidence of the events on Mr. Ramsey’s cell phone while investigating a different matter. The Grand Jury indicted Mr. Ramsay on one count of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of kidnapping, and one count of abuse of a corpse. After the trial court denied Mr. Ramsay’s motion to suppress, he pleaded no contest to the offenses. The trial court found him guilty of the offenses and, following an evidentiary hearing, sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the aggravated murder offense. The court also sentenced Mr. Ramsay to 10 years for aggravated burglary, 10 years for kidnapping, and 12 months for abuse of a corpse, which it ordered to run consecutive to each other and to the sentence for aggravated murder.

Ramsay argued that

  • The trial court erred in imposing LWOP when the defense introduced evidence that he was capable of being reformed in the Ohio penal system, and all though his actions were heinous and calculated, they were probably isolated and unlikely to occur again.
  • The trial court did not specifically consider Ramsay’s age.
  • The trial court failed to merge aggravated burglary and kidnapping, with each other and with the aggravated murder counts.

Ramsay’s assignments of error were all overruled and his LWOP sentence was upheld.

Life sentence upheld for Wadsworth teen convicted of murder

Jonathan Delozier
The Gazette
Apr 03, 2020 6:00 AM

MEDINA — An appeals court has upheld a life sentence without the chance of parole for a Wadsworth teen convicted last year in the strangulation death of an elderly neighbor.

Gavon Ramsay, who was 17 and living in Wadsworth at the time of his sentencing, filed an appeal in February 2019 with the 9th District Court of Appeals, roughly one month after the life sentence was handed down by Medina County Common Pleas Court Judge Joyce Kimbler. The appellate court affirmed on March 31 the sentence against Ramsay on charges of murder, aggravated murder, kidnapping, gross abuse of a corpse and aggravated burglary.

The teen initially pleaded not guilty to those charges but later switched to a no-contest plea.

During the appeal process, Ramsay’s attorney argued the court had erred in sentencing him to life without parole for the aggravated murder offense, citing a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated “sentencing a child to life without parole is excessive for all but the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.”

It was also argued that Ramsay’s aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary convictions should have been merged with the aggravated murder conviction and with each other because all were committed at the same time and with the same intent, according to court documents.

Ninth District Court Judge Jennifer Hensal struck down those arguments Tuesday and upheld the initial sentence, saying that according to the Ohio Supreme Court, aggravated burglary and aggravated murder are not “allied offenses” even if committed simultaneously and with overlapping intent.

Medina County Prosecutor Forrest Thompson argued that Ramsay failed to make an argument to combine his kidnapping, aggravated murder and aggravated burglary convictions during his trial, which means he legally forfeited the right to ask for that in an appeal.

Ramsay was found guilty in November 2018, avoiding consideration of the death penalty due to being only 17 at the time of the slaying.

On April 9, 2018, relatives found the body of 98-year-old Margaret Douglas inside the closet of her Wadsworth home while performing a welfare check. It is believed that Ramsay killed her in the early morning hours of April 6, breaking into the home, strangling her while wearing plastic gloves and sexually assaulting her body while photographing the act.

Later that month, police found photos and videos of the crime on Ramsay’s cellphone while investigating a separate matter.

Douglas is believed to have been asleep on her couch when Ramsay attacked her. Police also found Douglas’ wallet in Ramsay’s bedroom and found one of his gloves inside her home.

During the pretrial hearings, experts testified that Ramsay suffers from numerous disorders including gaining sexual arousal from the suffering of others. The defense also argued that the teen’s behavior might have been made worse by taking the prescription antidepressant Zoloft.

During the sentencing hearing, Thompson said life without parole was appropriate for Ramsay.

“He wanted to kill somebody just to see how it felt,” Thompson said then. “He showed no remorse to anyone. He wasn’t repulsed. He was excited. No outside factors caused him to do it. He had been writing about murdering and raping people for months.”