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Homicide victim’s mother speaks at sentencing

Lopez

– Blood, there was so much blood.

What began as a rare Friday night when Doreen Ramirez’s twin sons stayed home to keep her company had morphed into a nightmare.

Antonio Galvan III was bleeding.

Someone shot him in the neck at point-blank range.

Ramirez was over him, trying to give him CPR. But the blood – there was too much.

She put her hands on him and prayed.

It was the only thing she could do.

“The hole was just too darn big,” she said Thursday in Allen Superior Court, recounting the final moments she spent with her 28-year-old son.

She spoke of the knock at the door early that Saturday nearly a year ago and of the two men she and her sons thought of as friends on the other side.

She told how the door was kicked in, how someone flashed a gun and then of the shot that rang out.

And Ramirez spoke directly to one of those men implicated in the killing of her son.

A man named Jose Lopez Jr., a 24-year-old who frequently went by the moniker Fat Jose and who received a 23-year prison sentence from a judge.

But before that sentence could be handed down, before “Fat Jose” could be led away in cuffs from the courtroom, Ramirez spoke to him of her son and what Lopez took away from her.

“Memories last a lifetime,” she told him Thursday.

“And for you, they will sizzle in your mind morning, noon and night.”

‘I got the door’

The men came to the door just after 1:15 a.m. Feb. 23.

It was a house on McDonald Street, a little road within a tight neighborhood near Edsall Avenue and Kitch Street, on the city’s east side.

Jose Lopez and Augustus Marshall, 28, had been there before.

They had even attended many get-togethers with Galvan, his brother and Ramirez.

When they knocked, Ramirez was right there to answer.

For some reason, though, her son Antonio held her back.

“I got the door,” he said. “It’s OK.”

Lopez and Marshall identified themselves – it was Fat Jose and “Mont,” they said – and Galvan began to let them inside.

He cracked the door a bit to keep his pit bull from going after the men, Ramirez said, and he called out to his brother to corral the dog.

At that instant, one of the men kicked the door open. Someone had a gun.

Then he fired.

“What would you have done if I had answered the door?” Ramirez asked Lopez on Thursday.

The two men took off running while Ramirez tended to Galvan, who died at the scene.

His death would be ruled Allen County’s sixth homicide of 2013, an early statistic in a record-breaking year where 45 homicides plagued the county.

Lopez and Marshall would evade police for several hours.

Officers caught wind of their whereabouts after shots were fired outside a gas station shortly before 4 a.m.

There was a police pursuit.

Someone – Lopez later admitted it was him – chucked a shotgun from the SUV the men were driving.

Eventually, the pair fled the truck and broke into a woman’s home to hide.

That woman was in her yard, flagging down police, as officers arrived.

They had been called to her home because an alarm had been set off when Lopez and Marshall broke inside.

Plea deals

Lopez and Marshall eventually were charged with murder in Galvan’s killing.

But Lopez fingered Marshall as the trigger man in the shooting, at first claiming he had no clue of the man’s intentions to shoot Galvan.

Lopez pleaded guilty last month to felony charges of residential entry, aggravated battery and obstruction of justice as part of a deal with Allen County prosecutors.

By accepting the plea, he essentially admitted he knew Marshall intended to shoot Galvan that night.

That deal almost went sideways Thursday, though, as Lopez once again clammed up, refusing to admit that he knew violence was in the works.

He stuck to his story that he did not know Marshall’s intentions, adding that he accepted the plea deal because it was the best deal he was going to get.

Then he was pressured by Allen Superior Court Judge John F. Surbeck, who called his story “nonsense.”

“Just to be sure we’re clear, you went with Marshall at a time when you knew Marshall intended to kill the victim?” Surbeck said.

“Yes, sir,” Lopez said.

Fort Wayne police said in the days after Galvan’s killing that the two men’s motive was a $2,000 drug debt.

“My son wasn’t perfect,” Ramirez said in court.

“He wanted to be a church guy and happily married,” she said. “That’s all he wanted to be.”

Surbeck accepted Lopez’s plea agreement and sentenced him to 26 years in prison, 23 of which will be served behind bars.

The murder charge against him was dropped.

Marshall has also pleaded guilty in connection with the killing, admitting to residential entry and involuntary manslaughter.

If his deal is accepted at his sentencing next week, he’ll also receive a 23-year prison sentence.

‘Think real hard’

Galvan not only left behind a twin brother, a mother and father, but two sons as well, ages 5 and 10.

Neither boy completely understands what happened or why it happened, Ramirez said Thursday.

Since the killing, the 5-year-old has been uneasy inside the McDonald Street home.

“Every time he’s over, he wants to know if the bad guys are coming over to kill him,” Ramirez said.

She told Lopez she couldn’t believe people the family considered friends would do such a thing.

Whatever the problem was between him and Galvan, she said, there had to be a better way to make amends.

Lopez only shook his head as she talked.

At some point, she pleaded with Lopez to consider the life of his own young daughter.

“You better think real hard about how your daughter will grow up,” she said. “She’ll find someone just like you.”

And amid her memories of that night, mixed with the blood she could still see seeping from her son, are the overwhelming feelings of anger.

Ramirez may have agreed with prosecutors to the plea deal they offered Lopez, but she still felt as if he was getting off the hook.

Twenty-three years was not enough time, she said, not for what he took from her, not for forcing her to watch her son bleed out and die right within the door of a home on tiny McDonald Street.

But it was still something, and 23 years in prison – 11 1/2 if Lopez is given credit for good behavior – is not a stretch most people can just glide through.

“You’re going to rot, and you’re not going to be able to handle it,” Ramirez told Lopez.

“You don’t seem like a tough guy.”

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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