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Lindsay man is guilty of murder

Lindsay man is guilty of murder

An Exeter man used his dying breath to name his killer in 2011. And now his killer is facing life in prison for the murder.

On Jan. 18, 2013, a Tulare County jury found Elias Alberto Zurita Ramos, 23, of Lindsay guilty of first degree murder and the personal use of a firearm in the death of 30-year-old Federico Acuna of Exeter. Ramos is set for sentencing at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 19 in Department 12 of the Tulare County Superior Court. On that date, he will face a sentence of 50 years to life in prison for the murder of Federico Acuna. Two of Acuna’s brothers were present during the trial and the verdict, according to the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office.

“The motive for this crime is still unclear,” said Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz. “He gave investigators several different scenarios but there was not one, clear reason.”

In the early morning hours of July 25, 2011, Ramos shot and killed Acuna at his residence on Eaton Road at the base of Badger Hill just off Highway 198 east of Exeter. At approximately 5:15 a.m., Ramos telephoned Acuna and told him he would pick him up for work at his house. Ramos arrived at Acuna’s residence only to find that Acuna was not yet ready to go. Ramos left the area in his grey van. Approximately 10 minutes later, Ramos returned to the residence. Acuna was speaking to his mother on his cell phone at the time he walked outside of his residence, toward Ramos’ waiting van.

As Ramos waited inside the van he removed a shotgun shell from a compartment in the front of his van. Ramos got out of his van and walked to the rear of the vehicle. Ramos opened the rear door and removed a single shot 20-gauge shotgun from the rear and loaded it with the shell. Ramos then walked up to Acuna, stood within arm’s length of Acuna and aimed the shotgun at him. Ramos fired the shotgun, hitting Acuna in the mid-chest area. Ramos fled the area at a high rate of speed.

“It is not uncommon in crimes like this where people kill an acquaintance and we never know the motive behind it,” Fultz said.

Acuna was able to stumble back inside his residence and told the other occupants that “If I die, it was Elias Ramos that shot me.” Acuna’s dying declaration was also recorded during the 911 call. Paramedics transported Acuna to Kaweah Delta Medical Center where he later died from the gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at approximately 6:45 a.m. at the Visalia hospital.

Later that day, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department executed a search at Elias Ramos’ residence at an undisclosed location in the unincorporated area surrounding Lindsay. During the search, the 20-gauge shotgun used to murder Acuna was located under a rear seat of another van located on the property. Ramos was arrested and taken into custody.

Ramos pleaded not guilty during an arraignment on July 27, 2011 at the Pretrial Facility where he was being held without bail. The case did appear to be gang related; however, Acuna was a sex offender registered under the name Frederico Acuna Lira. According to the Megan’s Law website, Acuna was convicted of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 in 2003 and released in 2010.

“There was no discussion of that being a motive,” Fultz said.

The case was investigated by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Brenda Broker.

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