PETROLIA (AP) – Authorities said human remains found in a shallow grave in rural North Texas are those of a missing U.S. Army soldier, five years after they think he was killed.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday said Spc. Jose Ramirez of El Centro, Calif., was found early last month outside a home near Petrolia, just south of the Texas-Oklahoma border. Authorities were called to the home after an anonymous tipster contacted them about an unsolved murder.
According to a criminal complaint, authorities found bullet holes in a bedroom wall and blood stains in a hallway. A day later, they searched the area around the home and found a human skull with bullet marks as well as a pair of shorts with the word “Army,” the complaint said.
Authorities charged 30-year-old Justin Green with first-degree murder in February. Green, who once lived in the home where the bullet holes were found, remains in jail on $1 million bond and will appear in court Monday. His attorney did not return a phone message.
Ramirez was 22 when he was reported missing from Fort Sill, Okla., in December 2005, a military spokesman said. Ramirez’s family in California could not be reached.
Clay County Sheriff Kenny Lemons said last month that authorities didn’t know how Ramirez might have ended up near Petrolia, which is about 80 miles south of the base. Lemons said Ramirez likely died sometime in 2007.
Green and Ramirez both served together at Fort Sill, where Green spent five years before being discharged in July 2007.
Lemons described Green and Ramirez as acquaintances and said Green might have been visiting Ramirez when the incident occurred.
According to the criminal complaint, authorities arrested Green’s mother, Terri Green; his sister, Brittany Jan Green; and his sister’s friend, Stephanie Heaston-Corral. All three are charged with tampering with evidence. Their attorneys did not return phone messages Tuesday afternoon.
Brittany Green allegedly told authorities that her brother said he had shot Ramirez twice because he “did not believe in God and alleged that Ramirez reached for a gun,” the complaint said. Terri Green helped her son move Ramirez’s body from the home’s garage to the shallow grave, the complaint said.
Heaston-Corral later used Ramirez’s credit card to buy a pizza, signing the receipt as “Stephanie Ramirez,” the complaint alleges.
Lemons described the killing as a secret that had been kept by a small circle of people for years.
“One individual could not keep this secret any longer,” he said.
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