Shades of Guilt

In the murder trial of Krystal Voss, doubt was everywhere and nothing was reasonable.

Ramirez told the doctors that he'd been playing outside with Kyran. The boy had fallen off his shoulders and hit his head. So Ramirez had taken him inside, where Kyran became dizzy, unable to stand, and then passed out. He told the story over and over the next few days while apologizing tearfully -- to Voss, to her husband, to Kyran's grandparents.

He also told the story to Alamosa County Sheriff's Office investigator Harry Alejo. Ramirez had left the hospital by the time Alejo got there that afternoon; in fact, he was already headed back to Denver, by a back route he didn't usually take. Alejo reached him on Voss's cell phone. According to his report, Ramirez was "yelling and excited, and at times crying, telling me he is not sure where he is or what is going to happen to him." Alejo persuaded him to turn around and come back for an interview.

That evening, Ramirez gave Alejo an incredibly detailed account of Kyran's fall. He also said that the child had hit his head several more times as Ramirez, frantically trying to revive the boy, ended up shaking him, slapping him and dropping him in the bathtub. In a second interview two days later, Ramirez added other details, including an admission that he'd smoked a little marijuana earlier that day. At the end of that interview, Alejo arrested Ramirez on suspicion of child abuse.

Soon after his arrest, Patrick Ramirez recanted his 
story and blamed Krystal Voss for Kyran's injuries.
Soon after his arrest, Patrick Ramirez recanted his story and blamed Krystal Voss for Kyran's injuries.
Kyran Leigh Gaston-Voss
Kyran Leigh Gaston-Voss

But the story Ramirez told those first few days didn't match the injuries Kyran had suffered. The boy had multiple bruises on his chest and abdomen but no signs of external damage to the head, such as a skull fracture, that you would expect from a bad fall. The blown pupil was a sign of an acute subdural hematoma, a bleeding inside the skull that can be caused by a blunt impact, a severe shaking, or, in Kyran's case, probably a combination of both actions. The damage to his brain was so extensive that he was flown to Children's Hospital in Denver, where doctors labored for days to relieve the swelling and keep him breathing. They discovered a leg fracture that had probably occurred at the same time as the head injury.

Ramirez was lying about how Kyran got hurt, obviously. But was he trying to protect himself, Alejo wondered, or Krystal Voss?

The relationship between Voss and Ramirez had intrigued the investigator from the start. He soon learned that Voss and Gaston had moved from Denver to the San Luis Valley in the spring of 2002, with hopes of building a solar-powered home on property they'd bought near Blanca. They brought with them their baby, a keen interest in natural healing and herbalism -- and some big-city notions about open marriage. Voss had met Ramirez at a Labor Day barbecue and, with permission from her husband and Ramirez's wife, began a sexual relationship with him. Ramirez told Alejo that the affair had ended a few weeks before Kyran was hurt. Yet here was this grown man, with two daughters of his own, driving 230 miles from Denver to see his ex-lover and babysit her kid.

"My theory in all this," Alejo told Ramirez at the start of their second taped interview, "is that I think that possibly there's more to this story, as far as you trying to cover for her for whatever reason. Or possibly that the injuries happened a different way, and you are afraid to tell me."

At that point, Ramirez denied trying to protect Voss. But Alejo pursued his theory, and the entire direction of the investigation soon shifted. He visited Voss at Children's Hospital and obtained a written statement in which she admitted shaking a fussy Kyran the night before Ramirez arrived, "probably more violently than I meant to."

Then he had one more interview with Ramirez -- who, after several days in jail, had become eager to cooperate. He now claimed that Kyran was already hurt when he arrived at the house and that Voss had persuaded him to tell the doctors a yarn about an accidental fall.

Alejo arrested Voss for felony child abuse. The charge was raised to murder a few weeks later, after Kyran died in foster care of complications from his head injury.

You could say that the arrest of Ramirez, then Voss, less than a week after Kyran was hurt amounted to exceptionally fine police work. Or you could say it was a rush to judgment that clouded everything that followed. If you believed Ramirez's final story, you had to believe he was so infatuated with Voss that he readily agreed to take the fall for a horrendous crime he didn't commit, then cracked like a raw egg when he realized he might be sent up for life. Yet it seemed equally absurd to suggest that Ramirez -- who'd had some youthful, ill-tempered skirmishes with the law but was, by all accounts, a good father to his own daughters -- could have summoned the necessary rage to brutalize Kyran in the half-hour to 45 minutes he was alone with the child, before he called Voss at work.

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