Two days after Nathan Ramazzini, 38, took the witness stand in a Colusa County courtroom and said he was “a monster” and that he deserved the sentenced he got for the 1997 brutal slaying of his childhood best friend, Erik Ingebretsen, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson agreed.
Thompson upheld the original sentence that Ramazzini was handed down 20 years ago of life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for first degree premeditated murder, lying in wait, plus one year for the use of weapons – in this case the bat he used to bludgeon 16-year-old Ingebretsen to death and the knife he and Leo Contreras, then 19, used to mutilate his dead body.
Thompson said the crime was so horrific that “it traumatized the small town of Colusa” forever.
Ramazzini was 16 years old when he planned and executed Ingebretsen for little or no reason, and he is one of about 270 prison inmates serving life without parole in California for crimes they committed as minors. All are being given a second chance at being released under SB 9, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in 2012, which overturns the original sentence and sends the case back to a local trial judge to reconsider.
In order to get out of prison in as little as four years, Ramazzini would have had to show some sign he has or can be rehabilitated, that he is not a danger to society, and that he has developed some sense of remorse for his crime – the last thing Thompson said Ramazzini could not muster, even during his testimony. Nor could he muster a testimony that didn’t contradict his defense witness’ claim that he acted impulsively, was under the influence of tremendous peer pressure, and acted with little thought to the consequences.
Ramazzini admitted, on Wednesday, to being the driving force behind the planning and murder of Ingebretsen, who he had grown up with in a close-knit circle of family, friends, church, and community, and choosing to take a path of violence and crime, despite avoiding convictions.
“He is that rare juvenile offender whose corruption is not reparable,” Thompson said, after going through all the points of the new law that might have granted Ramazzini a shot at being re-sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Although the Ramazzini and Ingebretsen families were close before the slaying, Ramazzini did not, during testimony, look at his former friends, especially the victim’s sister, Devin (Ingebretsen) Lombardi, who was just 13 years old at the time of the murder, to offer any kind of apology or logical explanation applicable for eventual parole for the unusually vicious beating and near decapitation of her brother, despite numerous prompts by his attorney.
Ramazzini was stoic as he narrated the steps he and Contreras took to stage the murder at the river, where Ramazzini struck four lethal blows to Ingebretsen’s head, belying the longtime story that he “was not the trigger man” as he claimed in the letter he wrote to Brown, urging him to pass SB 9.
“We were wondering if he was going to testify,” District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp said, after the verdict. “Otherwise it was going to be the same story he’s been telling for over 20 years. We got a different story this time around, and, actually, he indicated he was the leader. He was the one that planned it, and there was really no reason, as we have always known, for it, and he could not come up with a real motive for it.”
Beauchamp had already asked during closing arguments for Thompson to dismiss the testimony of the defense witnesses, especially clinical psychologist Nancy Kaser-Boyd, a juvenile justice advocate, who spent about four hours with Ramazzini and testified that he was caught in an impulsive murder, was mentally undeveloped, and was under the influence of peer pressure.
“Her opinion was meaningless because she was under the influence of a sophisticated liar,” Beauchamp said.
Thompson also believed Ramazzini “could talk the talk” about rehabilitation but could not “walk the walk” out in real society.
Retired District Attorney John Poyner, who had tried the original case, said the community should not have had to go through this trauma again, but that Ramazzini’s testimony and the upholding of the sentence of life without parole finally puts an end to the speculation that others were involved that pressured Ramazzini to kill, which would have bolstered Ramazzini’s SB 9 claims.
“I feel vindicated,” Poyner said. “I have said all along that he was the ‘heavy’ in this. I’ve said it for years, but I’m pissed off because we had to do this. This is Jerry Brown’s fault and it just pisses me off.”
Absent the Hollywood ending of a mafia-style hit as a motive, the community, after hearing Ramazzini’s testimony of the horrific, cruel, and senseless murder, said they now come to accept what Ramazzini’s priest, educators, family, and others suspected for many years and have come to accept, that Ramazzini is a psychopath and that he chose the path of evil that he likely wanted his childhood friend to follow.
Scott Vedo, Ingebretsen’s uncle, in his final statement to the killer said the SB9 process was not a review of Ramazzini’s life sentence, but a review of Erik’s death sentence at the hands of a devil.
“You took us into the darkness of your world, and it is a sickening place,” Vedo said.
The full story on this case will appear in the Oct. 31 issue of the Pioneer Review.