GEORGE WEST – A Live Oak County jury found Sandra Ramirez, 33, of Beeville (formerly of the Corpus Christi area and George West) of solicitation of capital murder in a plot to kill her ex-husband, Rene Cortinas of George West.

After the guilty verdict was reached, the jury determined Ramirez’s punishment — 28 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison and a $5,000 fine.

Judge Starr Bauer, presiding over the trial, told Ramirez that if she plans to appeal, she must begin the process within 30 days, and Ramirez announced her intentions to do so.

Ramirez was arrested on Dec. 7, 2018, and charged with solicitation of capital murder after contacting an undercover officer — Live Oak County Narcotics Investigator Lance Rathke  — and paid him $100 (with an additional $100 owed) to kill Cortinas, who is the father of her and Cortinas’ son together.

Ramirez had expressed unhappiness both online and to a mutual friend of her’s and Cortinas’, identified as Mike, with a child custody arrangement which would have allowed Cortinas to share custody of the child.

She said that Cortinas had not been involved in the child's life much prior to that, and was unhappy that his father would now be spending time with him on a regular basis.

During testimony, however, Ramirez said she did not see Cortinas as a violent man nor as a threat to the child.

During phone conversations and text messages, Ramirez said she told Mike of her unhappiness with the child custody arrangement and a desire to remove Cortinas from her and the son's lives.

Mike testified that he contacted Jason Alvarez, a longtime associate and an investigator for the Beeville Police Department, expressing his concern that Ramirez’s was serious about wanting Cortinas to be killed.

Alvarez then contacted Rathke, since Cortinas lives in Live Oak County and the crime would have been committed there, and informed him of Ramirez’s plans.

Alvarez testified that he drove Mike to George West and introduced him to Rathke at the Live Oak County Sheriff’s Office.

Rathke told Mike to give Ramirez his phone number so that she could talk to him and meet with him regarding plans to kill Cortinas.

During a recorded phone conversation played for the jury, Ramirez called Rathke and even acknowledged that she was suspicious that he might be recording her, but said that she was willing to take the chance in order to be rid of Cortinas from her and her son's lives.

Ramirez arranged to drive from the Corpus Christi area to the Flying J truck stop in George West where they could talk about plans to kill Cortinas.

Ramirez got in Rathke’s truck and she gave him directions to Cortinas’ home, provided Rathke with a photograph of Cortinas, and told Rathke that she wanted the incident to look like a robbery gone wrong.

She also told Rathke that she wanted the hit to be done before Cortinas was scheduled to pick the child up from school the next day.

In court testimony, Ramirez said she later only meant for Cortinas to be beat up and not to be killed, but during the recorded conversation with her, Rathke clearly talks about putting a bullet in Cortinas’ head and asks her how neighbors will respond to a gunshot.

During the recording, Ramirez told Rathke that she doesn’t know, then showed him a picture of Cortinas and when asked if she was sure she wanted the hit to take place, she said that she was, and that she had thought about it for a long time.

During the punishment phase of the trial, defense attorneys Abner Burnett and Joseph Stephens asked that the jury consider community supervision — probation  — for Ramirez.

Witnesses that the defense called during the trial’s punishment phase included Ramirez’ daughter, Adryanna Cortinas, 17, probation supervisor Connie McElwain of Beeville, and Chris Luna, former principal of George West High School who now works for prison ministries. Luna resides in San Marcos, and he and his wife are in the process of adopting two of Ramirez’s younger daughters.

Their testimony, along with that of other witnesses in the case, will appear in the Jan. 15 issue of The Progress.

The range of punishment which Ramirez could have received, in addition to probation, was from five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Assistant District Attorney Tiffany McWilliams, prosecuting the case for the state, asked the jury to sentence Ramirez to 30 years in prison, saying that probation for soliciting a capital murder was “absurd” and not acceptable in Live Oak County.

For more on the trial, see the Jan. 15 edition of The Progress.

Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or theprogress@mysoutex.com.