Family members of one victim of a double homicide in the late ’80s received what they called devastating news this week.
Days before the 28th anniversary of a relative’s murder, the family learned one of the men convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole will walk free.
Edward Ramsey, who was 17 at the time of the murders on Feb. 23, 1989, was convicted and sentenced to two life terms without the possibility of parole. But according to family and the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, Ramsey has been granted parole and will be released in December 2021.
“He should never be released from prison,” said Paul Weibel, whose brother, Mark Weibel, was one of the victims shot and killed while working at an auto upholstery shop, A&A Auto Fabric Co, on Troost Avenue in Kansas City.
Mark Weibel’s co-worker, James Gaither, was also killed. Reporting by The Star after the trial described the murders as an execution, in which the victims were shot in the back of the head.
The communications director with the Missouri Department of Corrections, David Owen, could not confirm Ramsey’s future release, saying victims and offenders must be “notified of a parole board decision before the department can make that information public.”
But Mark Weibel’s niece, Jeanna George, said she also received notification, on Tuesday, from the Missouri Department of Corrections that Ramsey will be released in late 2021.
“Maybe other people deserve a second chance, but he does not,” George said by phone on Thursday. “We never heard any sense of remorse from him.”
George created a petition on Change.org, calling for signatures opposing Ramsey’s release. More than 500 people have signed it.
But after news came that Ramsey would be released, George wrote that the family is heartbroken, lost, devastated and confused.
“We aren’t giving up although there isn’t much anyone can do,” she wrote.
Michael Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, confirmed Ramsey will be released in about five years.
Now 45, Ramsey has been in prison for much of the last three decades. He became eligible for parole when the Supreme Court ruled last year that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles violated protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
Paul Weibel said that the murder of his brother meant his nephew, David Weibel, grew up without a father. David Weibel was 12 when his father was murdered.
He spoke during Ramsey’s parole hearing last December to voice his opposition to Ramsey’s release, as did other members of the Weibel family and the Gaither family.
Paul Weibel said the family was shocked to learn Ramsey will one day be released.
“We did not think he would get out,” Paul Weibel said, adding that a prosecutor from the case also objected to Ramsey’s release during the hearing.
“He wasn’t a safe member [of society] when he was out, so why’s he being let out now?” he said.
Questions about Ramsey’s innocence were raised after a jury found him guilty on the two counts of murder. After the trial, Ramsey declined a plea bargain that included the possibility of parole after 10 years. Instead, when the judge asked him to declare his guilt to accept the bargain, Ramsey declined. He asked what would happen if he didn’t take the deal, The Star reported in 1991.
The judge asked if Ramsey was pleading guilty because he was guilty.
“No,” he said. “They’re making it sound like this is the only option I have.”
Two witnesses had come forward in Ramsey’s defense, saying Ramsey’s cousin, Rickey Ramsey, was the only person who pulled the trigger in the garage.
The judge asked Edward Ramsey why, if he were innocent, he had fled the garage after the shooting.
“The only thing I could think of was to get out of there,” Ramsey reportedly said.
Though Ramsey asserted his innocence, an assistant prosecutor at the time, Patrick Peters, explained that Missouri law held all individuals involved accountable.
“During the course of a felony, if anybody gets killed, everybody involved takes the rap,” Peters said.