Closure for family of domestic violence victim

December 12, 2008 6:50:58 PM PST
A man who stabbed his former girlfriend to death in front of her young son, 8 years ago, was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison Friday. It is a case that forced San Francisco authorities to change the way they deal with domestic violence.

This has been a very high profile case among advocates for victims of domestic violence. Judge Robert Dondero gave Tari Ramirez the maximum sentence for second-degree murder. He refused to allow cameras in the courtroom, where things were often very emotional.

"I'm very much thankful. We did it. We made it," said Clara Tempongko, the mother of Claire Joyce Tempongko, who was grateful that her daughter's killer was finally going to pay for a crime so brutal, the judge called him "an animal."

Eight years ago, Tari Ramirez killed his ex-girlfriend by stabbing her repeatedly in front of her 10-year old son.

After eluding police for six years, Ramirez was arrested in Mexico in 2006. A jury convicted him in September of second-degree murder.

Before the judge passed sentence, Tempongko's mother talked about how painful these past eight years have been and that she hoped Ramirez would never get out of prison.

Before he was sentenced, Ramirez told the court he regretted his actions and said to his victim's family he was deeply sorry and asked for forgiveness.

District attorney Kamala Harris said she hoped this sentence would empower other victims of domestic violence.

"If they come forward, they will be taken seriously -- that perpetrators will face serious and severe consequences," said Harris.

Advocates of domestic violence victims and women in the Filipino community closely monitored this case. The justice system had failed Tempongko. She had repeatedly called police, obtained a restraining order, and even filed two reports against Ramirez a month before her death saying he had attacked her.

The murder led to a city commission that investigated what went wrong.

"There were several findings that were very serious, interdepartmental things that needed to change and those policies have been put into place," says Beverly Upton who works with domestic violence victims.

Someday, Ramirez will be eligible for parole, but Tempongko's friends say they will be vigilant.

"We will be there at the parole hearing to make sure that he doesn't get released," said Marily Mondejar with the Filipina Women's Network.

Tempongko's family sued the city after the murder, saying police had failed to share their reports with the courts, the district attorney and probation. That lawsuit was settled with an award of $500,000 Tempongko's two children.


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