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Till Death Do They Part

When Aurora police officers entered his home, Ramon Ruiz was making himself what looked like a breakfast smoothie. "Where's Ginny?" they asked. No one had seen Ramon or his new bride since their wedding four days earlier.

Ramon, standing barefoot in his kitchen amid broken wine bottles and scattered white pills, pointed to an adjoining room. There, squeezed between an ivy-laced canopy bed and a dresser, lay Ginny. Her throat had been cut, and a massive bloodstain covered her Celtic wedding dress.

"What's wrong with Ginny?" the officers asked.

"I think she's dead," responded Ramon.

"What happened to her?" the officers pressed.

"I think her throat is cut," Ramon said.

On Ramon's pinkie finger were Ginny's engagement ring and wedding band.

Ginny Rode had married Ramon on July 1, 2004. According to her ex-husband, Travis Rode, Ginny had called that morning to ask if she could keep his last name; she also admitted that she was having second thoughts about the union but said she couldn't discuss them because she was in the car with Ramon. In fact, the couple was headed south on I-25 toward the Renaissance Festival in Larkspur. Ramon was an avid fan of the Festival and had introduced Ginny to the world of jousting and turkey legs the year before. They were prepared for a wedding full of medieval pomp and circumstance, with Ginny wearing a black and silver dress with white Celtic symbols and Ramon sporting period garb, including black leather pants, chain mail, a metal breastplate and a large sword.

At high noon, Thomas Peru, a festival minister, presided over a pre-packaged "fairy tale" that included such traditional elements as linking the arms of the bride and groom with a strap of twine and having the newlyweds jump over a broomstick. Near the end of the ceremony, Peru explained to the assembled guests that, according to tradition, the longer the couple remained bound in their marital twine, the longer their union would last. Just as he finished his explanation, Ginny pulled her arms out of the twine and exclaimed, "I'm free!"

As they greeted the crowd, Ramon and Ginny were to be introduced as "Lord and Lady Ruiz." But during the first champagne toast, Ginny quietly identified herself as "Ginny Rode," according to court testimony later given by Peru. Matters got worse when Ginny refused to sign the marriage certificate and walked away. After a few anxious moments, Peru convinced her to return. Guests noted that Ginny balked three times before finally signing her name as "Virginia Ruiz."

After the festivities ended, guest Marcellino "Marc" Valdez got behind the wheel of Ramon's blue Dodge pickup while the newlyweds, too intoxicated to drive, argued in the back seat. Ramon became increasingly upset and demanded to be let out. Valdez pulled over, and Ramon began to walk along the shoulder of I-25, still dressed in his Renaissance regalia. Valdez and Ginny crawled along behind him until state trooper Andres Valenzuela pulled up and, after assessing the situation, convinced Ramon to get back in the truck.

The tempestuous chariot of Lord and Lady Ruiz finally arrived at the Royal Hilltop bar, where things continued to deteriorate. Ginny stumbled into a patron's table and insisted that Ramon beat up its occupants. Ramon abstained, and Ginny berated him. One witness remembered Ginny holding a steak knife to her own throat. The move was not out of the ordinary for Ginny, who, according to Travis Rode, had a history of threatening suicide.

Sometime that night, Ramon and Ginny left the Hilltop and returned to Ramon's home in Aurora.

Ginny was never seen alive again.

Three days later, both Ramon and Ginny's employers asked the Aurora police to conduct a welfare check at the house. Sergeant Tim Genaro and officers Brad Bickett and Brian Arnold responded and slid open the back door to find a house in disarray — pictures overturned, pools of wax on the floor — with Ramon in the kitchen and Ginny on the floor.

Paramedics soon arrived and pronounced Ginny dead at the scene. They also determined that Ramon's blood-sugar levels were "off the charts," and he was taken to the hospital for evaluation, where he registered a blood-glucose level nearly eight times the norm.

After Ramon's release from the hospital, police interviewed him and asked why he hadn't been able to help his wife. "I don't know how I could help her from dying," Ramon said. "I don't know how to do that."

On May 17, 2007, a jury filed into the courtroom of Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos A. Samour and pronounced Ramon Ruiz guilty of the second-degree murder of his wife.

During the trial, the jury had learned of Ramon's extended stays at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo for a mental-competency evaluation, the heart attack and subsequent retirement of his attending psychologist, and a mutual agreement to suspend Ramon's right to a speedy trial, resulting in a course of justice that lasted almost three years and had kept Ramon incarcerated for as long. In the final days of the trial, Samour threw out Ramon's plea of innocence by reason of insanity — diabetic hypoglycemic amnesia — and charged the jurors to consider his actions lawfully sane and logically reasoned.

"What struck me most about the case was the domestic-violence aspect of it," says Melissa Drazen-Smith, senior deputy district attorney in Arapahoe County. "That [Ramon] was, at least in my estimation, a domestic-violence incident waiting to happen. What struck me about it was how dysfunctional their relationship was, and the inevitability of something really bad happening."

Ramon doesn't remember it that way. "I miss her dearly," he says. "I don't know what happened. I don't even know what to say about it. Was it me? I'd like to not think it was me. Was it possible it was me? I think in the realm of reason, one could say so."

Ramon recalls only portions of his wedding and the evening afterward, but says Ginny never appeared apprehensive about their marriage. "In truth, a great deal of what happened that day at the wedding and the reception, I have a spotted memory of.... I couldn't really tell you what I did for the full eight hours," he says.

Ramon bases some of his memories on a sixteen-minute wedding video that he says showed a happy couple drinking, joking and being congratulated by their guests. He first learned of the events at the Royal Hilltop and the missing days following the wedding through police reports and court documents. "I've heard a number of stories that we were disagreeing, and then it's a matter of who wants to take what we were disagreeing about, how much impact they want to put on it," he says.

Even after a $70,000 defense effort and his own private investigation, which required the sale of most of his possessions, Ramon remains frustrated by unanswered questions. He claims that 22 minutes of the tape of his first interview with the police have been intentionally deleted. He wonders if he was drugged by someone during the evening and why his truck doors, which he normally kept locked, were unlocked when police arrived. He says that a bead found in Ginny's hair did not match her dress or any of her accessories, and that crime-scene photos showed that her key ring included one to his house, something he had not yet given her.

In particular, Ramon thinks that much of the testimony relating to his wedding was tainted by Ginny's ex-husband. "I really don't know why some people said the things that they said," Ramon says. "I know what I've been told is that there was an awful lot of pounding from the DA to try and get people to say certain things and use certain words..."

In the coming months, Ramon has faith that the mistakes and mysteries surrounding his case will be closely scrutinized on appeal. "It was never about the truth," he insists, "and my team told me that all along: 'We're not going to be in there about the truth. We want you to go with this plea because, looking at this case, it's probably one of the better defenses we have' — and that was a pretty big apple to swallow. But I went along with it because of what they were telling me."

For now, he's relying another kind of faith. He recently completed prison ministry courses, which gave him a new perspective on the tragedy. "Was Ginny's death a way of saving me? I sometimes wonder that. Because I had everything a man could want," he says. "And as great as my future was going to be with her, I think she's waiting for me. And I can't wait to go."

Ramon will be sentenced on June 27, nearly three years after the death of his wife.