Bail reduction denied, arraignment scheduled in Ramey killing

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

In a preliminary hearing Oct. 2, prosecuting attorneys presented evidence to Idaho First District Magistrate Judge Justin Julian alleging Judith Carpenter, 57, of Coeur d’Alene, murdered Hope woman Shirley Ramey on April 5, 2017.

Judith Carpenter.

Julian ruled that the state had provided sufficient evidence that the case for first degree murder and robbery be taken to trial, while also denying a request to lower Carpenter’s bond from $1 million to $500,000 or less. 

Carpenter’s arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m., Monday, Oct. 21 at the Bonner County Courthouse in Sandpoint.

Several witnesses took the stand at the preliminary hearing, including Ramey’s husband, Daryl. The state asked Ramey about his whereabouts the day his wife was killed. He recounted an average Wednesday: leaving his home on Trestle Creek Road in Hope around 11 a.m. to get lunch and play cards with friends. Ramey said upon returning home around 5 p.m., he immediately knew something was wrong when he saw the sliding glass door of his home ajar. Just inside, his wife lay dead with two bullet wounds to the head. Ramey immediately called 911 and waited about 20 minutes for first responders to arrive.

When asked whether he stayed with his 79-year-old wife while waiting, Ramey replied, “Yes. I held her hand.”

Prosecutors also called to the stand Bonner County Sheriff’s Detective Matthew Wallace, who was among the first detectives on the scene. He said there didn’t appear to be any signs of struggle or burglary.

“We were looking for open drawers, disturbed items,” Wallace said. “The house appeared to be undisturbed.”

Later, Ramey would discover a Savage Model 99 rifle had gone missing from his home, but that his wife’s jewelry, purse and other valuables remained where they’d been when he left.

Wallace said he and his team obtained two bullet casings from a 9-millimeter pistol at the scene and two more about half a mile down the road at a camp trailer owned by Nathan Utt. Though Utt was an initial suspect in the homicide, BCSO determined he was out of state at the time.

The same day as the Ramey homicide, Carpenter was arrested in Libby, Mont. in an apparently unrelated road rage incident in which she flashed a pistol at another driver on Highway 56. Lincoln County Sheriff’s Captain Bo Pitman, who received the call from the distressed driver, made initial contact with Carpenter. He described her demeanor as “delusional” and ultimately charged her with assault with a weapon and requested a mental health evaluation. Carpenter received a pretrial diversion — an alternative to prosecution that moves an offender from the traditional justice system and into programs facilitated by the U.S. Probation Service — and spent time at a Montana state hospital.

In her car at the time of the Libby arrest, Lincoln County officers recovered the Glock Model 19 9mm pistol Carpenter had used to threaten the motorist, as well as a Savage Model 99 rifle. 

Both guns remained in LCSO custody until earlier this year, when ATF officials asked regional law enforcement agencies to test fire all 9mm pistols in their possession. The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network system then matched casings from Carpenter’s test-fired Glock with those found at the scene of Shirley Ramey’s killing. 

When asked by LCSO about the rifle in 2017, Carpenter said she found it on the side of Highway 56. When the lead detective on the case, Bonner County Detective Phil Stella, asked Carpenter again about the gun in the spring of 2019, she recalled finding it near Trestle Creek Road in Hope, according to a probable cause affidavit made available following her Aug. 1 arrest.

Though LCSO ran the rifle’s serial number through the National Crime Information Center missing weapons database on April 5, 2017, no result would have shown until April 13 of that year, when Stella said Ramey recovered the rifle’s serial number and relayed it to law enforcement.

Prosecutors at the Oct. 2 hearing called Stella to the stand to explain where his research placed Carpenter throughout the day of the alleged murder. He said Carpenter made several 911 calls that morning from her residence in Kootenai County, reporting that there was “someone in her house.” Records place Carpenter’s phone in Sagle at 11:28 a.m. that day and in Libby at 3:10 p.m. (PST) — just as Lincoln County deputies took her into custody. 

Stella said the timeline places Carpenter in Hope between noon and 1:30 p.m.

Stuart Jacobson, a forensic scientist and ballistics specialist with the Idaho State Police, testified that the markings on the casings from the alleged murder scene matched the markings on the casings he test fired from Carpenter’s gun.

Bonner County authorities sent DNA evidence from the guns and scene to the state crime lab, but it has not yet been processed.

In their closing argument, Carpenter’s defense attorneys alleged that no concrete evidence placed their client at the Ramey home the day of the alleged murder and focused on the lack of a clear motive or connection between the women.

“Even if she was placed at the scene, there’s no evidence of what happened,” said attorney Joseph Sullivan. “All they’ve proved is that she was in possession of the rifle later in the day.”

Prosecutors alleged that Carpenter walked up to the Rameys’ sliding glass door with her Glock in hand, and evidence shows “that the kill shot came from her gun.” Regarding the robbery charge, prosecutors pointed to evidence that Carpenter “went into someone’s house and came out with their property.”

Julian commended both legal teams for good work on a “complex” case, and noted that the law does not require proof of motive.

“The evidence paints a strong picture of what happened,” he said.

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