A Whitewater couple with two children have been identified as the victims of the Wednesday morning murder-suicide in Fort Atkinson.
Fort Atkinson Police Capt. Jeff Davis said that Maribel Yessenia Ruiz Flores and Sillvestre Ramirez Linares, both 36, died Wednesday.
Ruiz reportedly was killed by Ramirez with a gunshot wound to the side of her head early Wednesday morning after an altercation outside an apartment complex parking lot at 114 S. Third Street, West.
Subsequently, Davis said, Ramirez was found dead in his Dodge pick-up truck along Fremont Road in the Town of Cold Spring. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is handling that investigation as a suspected gunshot suicide.
The couple originally were reported to having been married. Davis noted that the subsequent investigation revealed that the Whitewater residents never wed formally, but have been together for nearly 18 years and have two children. The additional information had not been determined when the preliminary news of the incident was being released to area media.
The shooting took place after Ramirez followed Ruiz, who apparently was driving a male co-worker home.
Fort Atkinson police officers responded to a 911 report of a vehicle striking a building at 114 S. Third St., West, in downtown Fort Atkinson at approximately 6:03 a.m. Wednesday. Police, the Fort Atkinson Fire Department and Ryan Brothers Ambulance Service were dispatched to the scene.
Davis said that, upon arrival, officers found Ruiz dead inside the vehicle from an apparent single gunshot wound to the head.
Police cordoned off the entire parking lot, which serves both 114 and 118 S. Third St., West, with crime scene tape.
Police took the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Major Accident Investigation Team up on its offer to assist in taking measurements of the crime scene.
“With their equipment, they can map out our crime scene,” Davis said.
Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Monica Hall also was called to the scene, which suggested from the early stages that the death was under investigation as a homicide as opposed to a crash-related fatality.
The male passenger in the vehicle was not injured and spoke to police at the scene. Due to a language barrier, a Spanish-language interpreter was summoned.
Davis said it appears that Ruiz and the male passenger were co-workers at a site in Whitewater.
“Beyond that, I can’t really say,” the captain said.
He said a member of the passenger’s family resides at 114 S. Third St., West.
“He also may live there,” Davis said. “My guess is that is why he was there. I think he was just being dropped off there by Maribel.”
Davis acknowledged that he was not certain exactly where the passenger formally resides.
“He may live with his family member, but he is just one of those people who just kind of flops around too,” the captain said.
The man was taken to the police station and kept in protective custody all day until Ramirez was located.
“He obviously felt endangered, too,” Davis said.
Based on how the incident unfolded, the captain said, he is not aware of any likely retribution from others toward the passenger. Outside of being in the vehicle at the time of the incident, the man had no direct involvement.
Surveillance video from a nearby business showed both Ruiz’s Nissan Altima and Ramirez’s vehicle — later identified as a Dodge pick-up truck — pass by going toward the parking lot at 114 S. Third St., West. Three to five minutes later, Ramirez’s truck is seen departing the area.
“It was a very quick encounter,” the captain said.
Based on interviews with the male passenger, Davis said, it appears Ramirez attempted to enter Ruiz’s vehicle through the passenger-side door.
“He basically went right over the passenger and shot her,” Davis reported.
After a shot was fired, the vehicle, which had been in drive, accelerated into the garage of the apartment building, with all three subjects still in the car.
Due to damage and possible injuries sustained from the crash into the garage, Davis said, he is unable to be certain whether there was an altercation between the passenger and Ramirez. He noted that the passenger had some minor injuries on his hand and a cut lip, but that might have resulted from the crash, as well.
The captain declined to speculate whether Ramirez might have intended to shoot the male passenger.
“I can’t speculate to that. When the gun is fired, the car accelerates into the garage with him partway hanging out of the car. It is a matter of timing and there were a lot of physical things going on,” the captain said. “Without being inside the car, I can’t really speculate as to exactly how it happened.”
The impact of the crash damaged a portion of the garage door and the car came to rest inside.
“We did find the firearm — a handgun — in the garage,” Davis said, noting that it apparently fell out of the car.
Ramirez reportedly spent a brief moment searching for the weapon and then ultimately fled the scene. The passenger was out of the vehicle when police arrived on the scene.
The captain pointed out that due, in part, to numerous aluminum cans bagged for recycling, the site was not ideal for a thorough examination of the vehicle and collection of evidence. In addition, investigators did not want to remove Ruiz from the car and possibly disturb other evidence there.
“It was still in drive when we found it,” Davis said of the car. “Either the passenger turned it off or it died when it struck the garage. We didn’t want to disturb anything because, at that point, we had a suspect on the loose.”
Davis pointed out that there also was a question as to ownership and registration of the vehicle, so a warrant was obtained to search the car. To complete the task in a secure fashion, the car, with the victim inside, was removed from the scene wrapped in blue tarps and towed into the police station garage a block north for analysis.
“That led us down the road of interviewing that survivor (the male passenger) who was on scene and got us looking toward who our suspect was,” the captain said. “We had a name, but I don’t think he ever saw the vehicle Ramirez was in because it happened so rapidly.”
Witnesses residing in the apartment complexes provided some information. but their stories were conflicting in terms of descriptions of the vehicle in which Ramirez fled. Davis said that while it seemed clear it was a truck, descriptions of its make, model and color varied.
“At the time of the incident, it was still dark, so that makes a difference,” Davis said. “We started off with what we believed was a white truck.”
As investigators researched what vehicles Ramirez owned or drove, there was some confusion.
The captain said the blue Dodge truck he eventually was found in had been repossessed a couple of years ago. Ramirez could not register it under his own name, so he used a different name to do so.
“Once we knew, we were trying to call his workplace and we were not getting straight answers. It took us a little while to get what we needed to be sure what kind of vehicle it was,” Davis said. “Things change, you do your best and you’ve got to go with what you’ve got.”
Upon getting Ramirez’s name and address, Davis said, the Whitewater Police Department was contacted to have an officer on hand at the couple’s home.
“I don’t think it was instantly, so he could have gotten home first,” Davis said.
The captain declined to speculate as to whether Ramirez had returned home for another firearm or simply had a second one in the car.
Due to the number of officers working on the case, Davis was not certain how they ultimately obtained Ramirez’s phone number.
“We were able to get his phone number and we tried to ping it and our first ping put us on McGinty Lane,” Davis said.
The next ping was near the Redi-Serve Foods in Fort Atkinson and then the third one was back on McGinty Lane again.
“We were getting 15-minute updates and identifying that phone as not moving,” Davis said.
He said the truck first had been seen around 7 a.m. that day along Fremont Road by people who called it in to authorities as a “suspicious vehicle.”
“They kind of kept an eye on it throughout the day and then realized it was worth checking on,” Davis said.
Around 3 p.m., the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office notified Fort Atkinson investigators that Ramirez’s truck, with him dead inside, had been located in the Town of Cold Spring along Fremont Road, a little over a mile away from the last phone ping location.
Davis said that based on the evidence collected and information the department has, investigators are confident Ramirez is the suspect from the Fort Atkinson shooting.
He said the investigation still is being processed to ensure all the evidence is consistent with everything that has been determined and what was observed on the scene.