– The two Stockton men accused of killing 73-year-old Hollister
resident Ralph Santos were arraigned Tuesday on charges of
first-degree murder with the special allegation of a hate crime
that could send them to prison for life without the possibility of
HOLLISTER – The two Stockton men accused of killing 73-year-old Hollister resident Ralph Santos were arraigned Tuesday on charges of first-degree murder with the special allegation of a hate crime that could send them to prison for life without the possibility of parole.
Eliseo Rojas, 24, and Eusebio Ramos, 30, were also charged with auto theft and possession of stolen property during the arraignment in San Benito County Superior Court.
The hate crime enhancement is believed to be related to Santos’ age.
Rojas and Ramos are accused of murdering Santos on June 10 and discarding his body in a 50-acre mustard-seed field off of Buena Vista Road, and stealing his car and personal property.
Santos’ body was discovered June 19.
Ramos was also charged with giving a false identity to a peace officer. The charge reportedly stemmed from his initial arrest on Sunday when Ramos allegedly tried to hide his identity from investigators by giving them a false name, according to statements made in court.
Wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and shackles, Ramos appeared nervous as he shifted his weight slightly from one foot to the other.
Ramos’ nervousness became more apparent when he blurted statements in Spanish while Superior Court Judge Steve Sanders was advising him of his rights.
“I just need you to tell me how long my sentence is going to be,” Ramos said through an interpreter.
Because of the language barrier, Ramos apparently had trouble understanding Sanders, so the judge methodically detailed his legal rights.
Sanders appointed local attorney Stephen Engelhardt as his counsel.
Rojas, who was also shackled around the waist and ankles, stood slightly slouched throughout the proceedings. Sanders appointed Salinas attorney Bud Landreth to represent Rojas.
Neither Rojas nor Ramos entered a plea during the arraignment, and Sanders gave both a week to meet with their court-appointed attorneys and to return to court for continued arraignment, at which time they can enter a plea.
Sanders also ordered jail officials to continue holding the two farm laborers without bail.
Local attorney Greg LaForge, who is representing the family of the murder victim, attended the arraignment and said the family wants to do what they can to help bring Santos’ killers to justice.
LaForge said despite broadcast accounts, the family will not sue the City of Hollister.
“The family is not pursuing any type of legal action,” LaForge said.
He said the family’s concern has been their “mistreatment” at the hands of the Hollister Police Department.
“They were ignored and disregarded by the police when they said that Mr. Santos had been abducted,” LaForge said. “Wouldn’t it be better to at least check it out?”
He said the family was hurt when one member reportedly overheard Hollister Police Chief Larry Todd say that “the family was crazy.”
“Maybe the police department should add sensitivity training to its training schedule,” LaForge said.
Todd vehemently denied the allegation.
“I have never made such a statement to anyone,” Todd said. “It’s an absolute fabrication. I have absolute respect for the Santos family and for what they’ve been through. They are as much victims in this as Mr. Santos.”
Todd said he was disappointed that LaForge was spreading such a rumor.
“It is not only unprofessional, but unethical,” he said.
Members of the Santos family declined comment.