On Monday, around 80 community members gathered in front of the historic Colusa County Courthouse on Market Street before breaking into groups and dispersing throughout town to tie blue ribbon around trees and signs – rallying in a show of support for the family of Erik Ingebretsen.
Almost 21 years have passed since Ingebretsen was brutally murdered at the age of 16 by his two best friends – Leo Contreras, then 19, and Nathan Joshua Ramazzini, then 16. For many of those who gathered in front of the courthouse on Monday evening, the memory of Ingebretsen’s murder and the trial that followed it are still – and always will be – etched into their memory.
“When it happened, it was three to four years after my brother passed away, so it really hit home with me,” said JayAnne Walker, who was a year ahead of Erik in school. “Erik and I were pretty close that last year. I was actually fairly close to Leo, too. It was just very shocking for me, and for the community.”
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Marianne Nall, a good friend of Erik’s parents, Valerie and Gerry Ingebretsen. “We were there with them through most of it.”
Her son, Chad Nall, grew up with Erik and was just a year behind him in school. He was also on hand at the ribbon tying event on Monday evening, along with his wife and children. He said that he hoped the ribbons around town would convey not only the community’s support for the Ingebretsen family, but also the community’s exasperation with the law that has allowed Ramazzini to seek a recall and reduction of his original sentence, which – if granted – could potentially allow him to be paroled in around five years.
“I hope we’re making the message clear that when this happened 21 years ago, it wrecked the whole community,” Chad said. “…It hit everyone pretty hard when it happened. For this to come around again – it should never happen.”
More than two decades after Ramazzini was sentenced to life without parole, he is asking to have that sentence recalled and reduced to 25 years to life. He was granted a hearing in the Colusa County Superior Court, made possible by Senate Bill 9, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013. Today marks the second day of that hearing.
Chad Nall said that the hearing is an injustice, particularly to Ingebretsen’s family.
“To see Gerry, Valerie and Devin kind of getting back to normal as best they can… to see everyone be able to – not move on, because you never move on from something like that – but to move forward, and then to have this hearing come up… It’s just terrible that we have to worry about this again,” Nall said on Monday night. “Tomorrow’s hearing – I don’t even know how to describe it. To have to see (Ramazzini) in this courtroom again, it’s going to be difficult. The only time anyone thought they would have to see him again is if someone decided to visit him in prison, to ask him why he did what he did.”
At Monday’s ribbon tying event, as well as the larger gathering outside the Colusa County Courthouse yesterday morning, the Colusa community showed its support for the Ingebretsens. If there was one positive that came out of this week’s hearing, Nall said, it was that it brought the community closer together. Walker agreed.
“When it happened, the community came together. Of course there was grief, but when this came about, it brought the community together behind Erik’s family,” Walker said. “This coming up now is kind of bringing us together all over again.”
Erik’s sister, Devin Lombardi, said that the community’s support means “a great deal” to her family.
“I think this would be incredibly hard to do without everyone holding us up,” Lombardi said.
“I have no idea how families do this alone – and I know there are a lot of them. We’re very blessed to live in this community.”
Ramazzini’s hearing is expected to wrap up in the next couple of days. Coverage of the hearing will be printed in the Oct. 31 edition of the Pioneer Review. ■