News Column

Facebook Post and a Bullet Cap Night of Rape, Arson and Theft

Page 2 of 1

One last Facebook status update capped a bizarre night of terror in central Michigan during which police say a prison parolee abducted a college student at gunpoint, raped her, set fire to a house, stole a flatbed truck and rammed three police cars.

"Well folkes im about to get shot. Peace."

That was the message Eric Ramsey posted from his cell phone to his Facebook page apparently just moments before he was fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy, ending a crime rampage that started in Mt. Pleasant and stretched 85 miles north to the Grayling area.

"I've been in this community for 35 years," said Central Michigan University Police Chief Bill Yeagley. "I don't remember anything like this."

Police said it started around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday as the student, a senior from the Grand Rapids area, walked to her Ford Escape, which was parked in a lot just outside of the Student Activities Center in the middle of CMU's Mt. Pleasant campus.

As she got near her car, the woman was approached by Ramsey, who brandished a gun and forced her into her SUV, police said. Ramsey told the victim he randomly picked her, according to police.

He directed her to drive to a house just off campus, on South Crawford Street, where she was bound and raped. Police said the house was owned by Ramsey's mother, with whom he had been living.

Ramsey -- who was paroled last summer after serving a five-year prison stint for felonious assault -- then got the victim back in the SUV, along with two cans of gasoline. As they drove down the road, he told her he was going to kill her, the woman told police.

She jumped out and ran to a house on South Mission Road in Shepherd.

James Persyn III, 14, told the Free Press that he, his sister, Acelin, 11, and his 2-year-old brother, Angus, were home Wednesday night when they heard banging at the front door and a woman's cries for help.

"She was saying, 'Help me! Please let me in. Help! Help!' " James said. "I let her in, and she asked me if my parents were home. I told her no. She said, 'We've got to hide. I was just kidnapped, and I've just jumped out of a vehicle. We've got to hide now.' "

James said he grabbed his hunting knife from his bedroom and told his siblings and the woman to go in the bathroom. He stood by the bathroom door, while the others went into the bathtub.

They heard a man believed to be the woman's attacker pounding at the front door, demanding to be let in.

"You were just afraid for your life. You didn't know if you were going to live or not," James said.

The woman called 911 and then James called his father, who had left to pick up his fiancee from a nearby store and pizza shop where she works.

The woman told James she had a broken arm from jumping out of the vehicle. Meanwhile, police said, Ramsey poured gasoline around the house and lit it on fire. He then took off.

The father, James Persyn Jr., rushed to the house. When he arrived, the man who had been banging on the door was gone and the front of the house was on fire. Persyn smothered and stomped out the flames, and called for his children. Police arrived at about the same time.

Meanwhile, Ramsey, 30, was headed north.

About 2:50 a.m., Michigan State Police investigated a suspicious vehicle in a parking lot in Gaylord. The vehicle -- the victim's SUV -- rammed the troopers' car three times, "rendering it inoperable," the State Police said in a release.

The SUV drove off. The State Police followed the vehicle's tracks to an elk ranch, owned by the City of Gaylord. The tracks went through an enclosure at least 8 feet high.

Troopers, now on foot, went about a mile into the ranch before finding the SUV stuck in the snow, the release said.

They followed footprints to Arrow Sanitation, where they found vehicle tracks leading out. They put out a description for a possible stolen truck.

About 4:15 a.m., troopers were parked just north of Frederic, when a 1-ton flatbed truck came up behind them without headlights on and smashed into their patrol vehicle. The truck then turned around and rammed a Crawford County sheriff's car, causing the vehicles to get wedged together. The deputy, after being briefly pinned inside, got out and fatally shot Ramsay as he sat in the cab, authorities said.

The victim is safe and with her family, police said.

"I believe she made all the right choices," Yeagley said. "She's the true hero in this."

The campus community is on edge, several students said.

"It's just the randomness of it, right on campus that has everyone upset," said sophomore Mary Williams, 19, of Detroit.

CMU police are working to reassure the community, Yeagley said. CMU offers escorts for students at night, more than 15,000 last semester.

"We want them to feel safe as they travel campus," Yeagley said. "This is not something any of us would expect to happen on our campus."

Ramsey had a violent history. He served a prison term from July 2007 to July 2012 on a conviction for assault with the intent to cause great bodily harm less than murder. He had previous convictions for malicious destruction of fire department or police property, assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer, and assault with a dangerous weapon.

The parole board released him at his minimum sentence time, Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said. During his time in several Michigan prisons, he was classified as a minimum-security prisoner.

He served his last three months at a boot camp outside of Chelsea in Washtenaw County.

After he was released, he moved in with his mother.

He wore a tether, which allowed authorities to make sure he was in by curfew, Marlan said. The tether was removed Nov. 9, and Ramsey had to check in with his parole officer twice a month. His last parole check-in occurred Jan. 8. He was employed in a full-time job and following all the conditions of his parole, Marlan said.

Tiffany Ramon, 28, the fiancee of James Persyn Jr. and the mother of one of the three children in the house where the victim took refuge, said she was shocked Thursday morning when authorities told her the suspect's name. She said she and Ramsey both attended Shepherd High School, graduating in 2002.

"When I was in high school with him, and after high school, I thought he was a pretty decent guy," she said. "I didn't hear many bad things about him. He was a little bit mischievous, and a little bit of a troublemaker, but I never thought he would be that hardened."

Ramon said she saw Ramsey a few times in recent months when he stopped in at her workplace, J and M Produce, to buy food, pop and cigarettes. It seemed like prison had changed him, she said, but he still had an easygoing demeanor.

"He looked aged, like tired in the eyes, like prison had hardened him a little bit," she said. "But he didn't seem violent or destructive to me."

James said he's happy the woman is OK. "I keep trying to tell (the children) that even though it was scary and a lot to deal with, they helped somebody save their life," Ramon said.


For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters