Prosecutor: Defendant used child's disability checks to party

Carmen Ramirez , 27, also has been charged with felony theft.
Carmen Ramirez , 27, also has been charged with felony theft.
Posted: January 09, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Tired of life with her children and their father, Carmen Ramirez decided last summer that it was her time to have some fun. So, police said, the 27-year-old began to spend more time with a boyfriend and left her five young children - including her severely disabled 3-year-old daughter, Nathalyz Rivera - with their father in a West Oak Lane home so filthy and bug-ridden that police wore Hazmat suits when they went inside.

And when Nathalyz, who suffered from an undiagnosed genetic condition that left her partially blind and unable to walk or talk, starved to death in September, Ramirez told police she had not seen the child much and had been spending her nights at nightclubs and casinos.

At a court hearing Tuesday, prosecutors added another layer to the case, charging Ramirez with three counts of felony theft on top of the third-degree murder charge she faced.

The charges come, they said, after a Secret Service investigation found that for months before Nathalyz died, Ramirez had taken the Social Security checks and other government aid intended for her children and used them to finance her partying.

In court, Assistant District Attorney Gwenn Cujdik said that according to the government's investigation, Ramirez received $2,130 every month for Nathalyz and two of her older siblings. The government electronically transferred to Ramirez $710 for each child through a check-cashing company, where Ramirez was able to withdraw the funds in cash, Cujdik said.

Ramirez had been receiving disability checks for Nathalyz as far back as 2010, Cujdik said.

It remains unclear what kind of oversight there was with the money, Cujdik said after court.

But from the conditions of the home where Nathalyz spent her final days on a dirty mattress on the floor, Cujdik told Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon, it was obvious the money was going elsewhere.

"The money was provided by the government for the care of the children," she said. "But there is clear evidence that these children were not cared for in any sense of the word."

The home was unlivable, Cujdik said, so much that it seemed as if Ramirez and the child's father, Carlos Rivera, had simply stopped parenting for their children, ages 3 to 9.

A layer of garbage a foot deep lined the floor, Cujdik said. The furniture was in pieces. There were holes in the floor and ceilings, and bugs everywhere. The only thing to eat or drink, Cujdik said, was a half-carton of milk.

Nathalyz was days away from turning 4 when her mother brought her lifeless body to Einstein Hospital on Sept. 9. She weighed only 11 pounds, the average weight of an infant of 3 months. Her bones were visible through her skin.

Rivera, 30, who lived with the children, has been charged with first-degree murder. Police said he told them that after Ramirez began spending time with her boyfriend, he often left Nathalyz in the care of her siblings while he did odd jobs.

Rivera was not charged with the theft of the children's government checks, since there is no evidence that he received the money, Cujdik said.

Both parents are being held without bail as they face a preliminary hearing Wednesday, where a medical examiner and a doctor who examined Nathalyz the night she died are expected to testify.

Ramirez and Rivera were also both charged Tuesday with additional assault charges regarding their other children, who, like their sister, were malnourished and covered in lice and bug bites.

One of the children was so anemic she would have died in months had she gone undiscovered, Cujdik said. Another remains hospitalized with behavioral problems. None of the children are expected to testify.


mnewall@phillynews.com

215-854-2759 @MikeNewall

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