Colorado Springs woman guilty of first-degree murder

October 4, 2013 Updated: October 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm
photo - A body was found in a room at the Chief Motel on South Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs. Photo by MATT STEINER, THE GAZETTE
A body was found in a room at the Chief Motel on South Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs. Photo by MATT STEINER, THE GAZETTE 

A Colorado Springs woman is headed for life behind bars after a jury convicted her of first-degree murder Friday in a deadly robbery at a South Nevada Avenue motel.

Jeannette Silvia, 49, is expected to receive a life sentence at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

An El Paso County jury on Friday handed up sweeping convictions against Silvia for murder, aggravated robbery, motor vehicle theft and other crimes in the Aug. 21, 2012, death of Michael Ramirez. Ramirez, 59, was found dead in a bathtub in a room at the Chief Motel rented by Silvia and then-boyfriend Joseph Santos-Torres, who is awaiting trial on similar charges.

An autopsy determined Ramirez was strangled with a belt and also suffered nonfatal stab wounds. Authorities alleged he was killed for his wallet and a 2000 Chevy pickup.

During a week-and-half-long trial, prosecutors Gail Warkentin and Andrew S. Vaughan said the evidence showed Ramirez had paid Silvia $100 for a sex act during a night of drinking, then was summoned back to her room two days later, where he was attacked and slain in the bathroom.

Defense attorneys Sarah Christensen and Phil Dubois said Santos-Torres committed the murder in a jealous rage and enlisted Silvia to help him get away.

Jurors were told Santos-Torres kept Silvia under his thrall through domestic violence and threats, in what Vaughan during closing statements called an "imaginary" claim unsupported by evidence.

Authorities say the couple tried to flee together in Ramirez's stolen pickup but that a drunken Silvia was involved in two crashes on the way out of town, effectively ending the escape attempt.

Under Colorado law, first-degree murder convictions are subject to an automatic appeal

Santos-Torres, 50, was due for trial in July, but it was postponed because of an outburst in court that raised questions about his mental health. His case is effectively on hold while attorneys battle over a defense claim that he is unable to understand the proceedings against him.

He is expected to return to court Dec. 5 to review the results of a competency evaluation by the Colorado State Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.

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