Gavon Ramsay

Victim: Margaret Douglas, 98

Age at time of murder: 17

Crime date: April 6, 2018

Crime location: Wadsworth, Ohio

Murder method: Strangulation

Murder motivation: Thrill & enjoyment

Convictions:  Aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, kidnapping, & abuse of a corpse

Sentence:  Life without parole (LWOP) later reduced to 25 years to life by Senate Bill 256

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Grafton Correctional Institution

Offender Photo
Prison photo

Summary

On April 6, 2018, Ramsay, 17, broke into Margaret’s Wadsworth, Ohio, home. He found the 98-year-old sleeping on the couch and took a video of her. Ramsay, who had been fantasizing about raping and murdering people for months, and who wanted to kill someone to see how it would feel, strangled Margaret to death. Ramsay, who has been diagnosed with sexual sadism disorder, then undressed her dead body and abused her for two hours, taking photographs and videos along the way. Several of the photographs and videos Ramsay took were of a sexual nature. Ramsay then stuffed her body in a closet and left her there. He placed the gruesome photos of the crime in a secret file on his phone so that he could watch them.

Ramsay was sentenced to life without parole. He appealed and his sentence was upheld. However, Ramsay’s LWOP sentence was reduced to 25 years to life by Senate Bill 256. Ramsay is a highly disturbed young man whose notebook contained writings about raping people, fantasies about strangling and killing people, and serial killer biographies. He is a diagnosed sexual sadist.

Details

Examples of Juvenile Murderers

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Margaret Douglas

Gavon Ramsay was 17 when he broke into the home of his 98-year-old neighbor Margaret Douglas. Ramsay was severely disturbed and had written about raping and murdering people, including people he knew, for several months. In addition to his fantasies of raping, strangling, and killing, his notebook also contained serial killer biographies. He had a desire to kill people to see how it would feel. And on that fateful April night, he lived out that desire.

Ramsay first took video of Margaret as she slept on her couch. He then strangled her to death. Ramsay undressed Margaret’s body and abused her for over two hours, taking video and photographs, some of which were of a sexual nature. He used her dead hand to pleasure himself and he placed her in sexual positions for photographs and videos. Ramsay then shoved Margaret’s body in a 1.5ft by 2.5ft closet and hid her under a vacuum cleaner and clothes.

Ramsay organized the videos and pictures of the post-mortem sexual assault of Margaret on his phone. He placed them in a secret file called “Dark.” The password for this hidden file?– “Murder.” This allowed him to view the graphic videos and pictures for pleasure. He also memorialized the murder by taking Margaret’s wallet as a trophy.

Ramsay engaged in criminal behavior both before and after the murder. He often hooked up with gay men and robbed them. In one case, he collected an empty bottle of cologne as a trophy from a man he assaulted and robbed. Despite efforts to reform him, his crimes continued to escalate. The diagnosed sexual sadist has no remorse for the gruesome murder. He admitted: “It really didn’t feel like anything had happened. I really didn’t feel anything. I just continued to break into cars and drink and smoke dope.” He also admitted that had he not been caught, he would have killed again.

Statement on SB 256 from Margaret Douglas’s Niece

Prosecutor: Gavon Ramsay “fascinated” by murder and wanted to kill Margaret Douglas (UPDATED)

MEDINA — A potential serial killer in training could be off the streets for a long time.

That’s how Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson said he feels about Gavon Ramsay, the 17-year-old Wadsworth teen found guilty Friday in the murder of 98-year-old Margaret Douglas, also of Wadsworth.

The teen appeared in Medina County Common Pleas Court on Friday where he withdrew a previous plea of not guilty and entered a plea of no contest to nine counts in connection with the brutal killing of the widow who lived alone on Portage Street.

Thompson said after the plea hearing that in his opinion, Ramsay “seemed to be on his way down that path (to becoming a serial killer). He seemed fascinated with it, by the whole concept.”

Ramsay pleaded no contest to four courts of aggravated murder; two counts of murder; one count of aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony; one count of kidnapping, a first-degree felony; and one count of abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony.

Judge Joyce V. Kimbler set sentencing for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 3. Ramsay faces the possibility of life without parole, which is something Thompson said he will push for at sentencing.

“I don’t think it’s a big secret,” he said. “I’m asking for life without parole.”

Public Defender Jocelyn Stefancin said no agreements were reached in respect to sentencing before Friday’s plea hearing. She had no additional comments.

When Kimbler asked Ramsay if he understood the murder charges, the teen replied, “I caused the death of Margaret Douglas.”

Police found Douglas’ body April 9 in a closet during a second walkthrough of her home after she was reported missing earlier in the day. The body was concealed by various items and clothing. She died in the early hours of April 6, police have previously said.

Wadsworth police Lt. Dave Dorland said it is believed Douglas was strangled.

Ramsay was indicted May 22 by a county grand jury and initially pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and awaited trial in the Medina County Juvenile Detention Center.

The plea change came three days before the jury trial was set to begin Monday.

What happened April 6?

Early in the case Kimbler issued a gag order that silenced both sides and kept many of the details of the April murder under wraps.

Kimbler lifted that order Friday.

Stefancin objected to no avail. Thompson said the reason for the gag order was to protect a potential jury pool.

“That issue is now behind us,” he said.

As such, after the hearing Thompson laid out the details of the grisly crime.

Ramsay entered an unlocked back door at Douglas’ house at 359 Portage St., Wadsworth, Thompson said.

“(Ramsay) videoed her while she was asleep on the couch in the living room,” the prosecutor said.

Although police have video evidence in the case, Thompson said Ramsay didn’t record himself actually strangling the 98-year-old woman as he used both hands.

He undressed the elderly woman and abused her corpse. She wasn’t sexually assaulted.

The clothing she was wearing was found in the closet with her body.

Ramsay wore food service-type gloves — loose-fitting plastic gloves — while in the house. The gloves appeared in some of the short videos he made, Thompson said.

When Douglas was found and police were searching her home, court documents said police found a white plastic glove in a flower bed by the back door of her home.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation tested the glove and confirmed DNA from Douglas as well as Ramsay’s DNA on both the inside and outside of the glove.

Cell phone break

An April 9 missing person’s report was the first indication something was wrong with Douglas. A initial walkthrough found no evidence of foul play, but a second search found her body covered by clothes and other items in a closet, police said.

The discovery led to another question: who murdered the elderly widow?

A break in the case came about a week later.

Police began investigating Ramsay’s involvement in an alleged carjacking and learned the victim, a 50-year-old-male, possibly met the teen through the dating app Grindr. Ramsay’s mother requested police investigate the man for the possibility of a sexual assault and agreed to turn over to police a cell phone she owned that her son used.

Wadsworth police found images of Douglas on the cell phone. Ramsay later confessed to the crime during an interview conducted by detectives.

Thompson said finding the phone was perhaps the most important and compelling evidence in the case.

“(But) his confession was equally strong,” he said.

The prosecutor said phone records indicate he was in the house for “an excess of two hours.”

Thompson said Ramsay recorded many videos on his phone as “many of the events were taking place — both when she was alive and after her murder. There was clear indication, at one point, at the initiation of the videoing, that she was still alive. There were later videos when she was deceased.”

A possible charge of carjacking was never filed against Ramsay, Thompson said.

“My reasoning was very simple,” he said. “These charges are the most egregious charges anyone can face. Why confuse the issue and expend community tax dollars to prosecute him through the juvenile court while these are pending?”

Planning a murder

Thompson said that Ramsay didn’t just want to rob Douglas.

He wanted to kill her.

He had been writing in a journal for months before the murder, describing fantasies about killing and strangling people.

Ramsay’s attorney tried to suppress the images found on the cell phone, his confession and a subsequent search of his residence that uncovered the journal asserting police obtained all of the evidence in violation of Ramsay’s constitutional rights.

However, after a two-day hearing, Kimbler overruled the defense motions and said there were no constitutional violations, meaning if the case would have went to trial the evidence would be allowed in. Ramsay soon told his lawyer and the prosecution that he intended to change his plea.

Thompson said the real issue is Douglas.

“She lived in that house for over 50 years,” he said. “She lived there her entire married life until her husband passed away in 2000 and continued to live there until she was 98. There’s no way to express how much of a tragedy this is to the Douglas and Ramsay families.”

One of the items Ramsay is accused of taking from Douglas’ house was a red wallet — later found by police in Ramsay’s bedroom.

Still, it was not enough to make Thompson believe it was just a robbery gone wrong.

“The evidence doesn’t support the theory that he entered the house to steal,” he said. “I think the theft of any items from the home were a byproduct of his intentions. As stated in the first count, the evidence suggests his intention to enter the home was to kill her.”

No death penalty

Despite the layered gruesomeness of the crime, Thompson said there is one penalty Ramsay will not face: death.

“He’s 17,” the prosecutor said. “The U.S. Supreme Court said it’s a violation of Article 11 of the U.S. Constitution, that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment to impose a death sentence on a minor.”

Still, he said he believes justice was served for the Douglas family, which was in court Friday. It also gives the family some closure.

“That’s always our goal,” he said. “It’s never enough because it can’t bring back the victim.”

The family did not want to comment on the case.

Ramsay said in court that he doesn’t suffer from any mental illness.

“Do I think he has a mental illness?” Thompson asked. “No. Do I think he has some disturbances? Yes, I do. In my opinion, the reasoning in his mind — why his mind went where it went — is for other far more qualified people than me to evaluate.”

Stefancin asked that her client undergo a mental health evaluation prior to sentencing. Kimbler said it should be done before Dec. 7.

Thompson said after the change of plea, the defendant could file an appeal.

“I suspect part of the motivation is to preserve an appeal,” he said. “By entering a no contest, they have the right to appeal the suppression hearing.”

Kimbler said in court that by pleading no contest, it’s not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgement of the truthfulness and accuracy of all of the allegations contained in the indictment.

Ramsay waived his right to a jury trial, his right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him, his right to subpoena witnesses at a trail, and his right to require the state to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

But he does have the right to appeal a maximum sentence. Any appeal must be filed within 30 days of sentencing.

Thompson said he wanted to stress there is no plea deal.

“His options were to go to trial or plea to the indictment,” he said. “Those were the only options he was afforded.”

Wadsworth teen pleads no contest in strangling death of 98-year-old neighbor

By Amanda Garrett
Beacon Journal
Posted Nov 2, 2018

Did Margaret Douglas recognize Gavon Ramsay — a neighbor boy who once asked to work in her Wadsworth yard — standing over her in the darkness?

Did the 98-year-old widow have time to beg the 17-year-old for her life as he wrapped his gloved hands around her neck and squeezed?

Maybe, in the wee, groggy hours of that April morning, Douglas thought she was still asleep, dreaming even though she was trapped in a real-life nightmare from which she’d never wake.

On Friday, after months of denying he killed his elderly neighbor, Ramsay pleaded no contest to nine charges against him in the case, including multiple counts of murder, plus kidnapping, burglary and abuse of a corpse.

Medina County Common Pleas Judge Joyce Kimbler is scheduled to sentence Ramsay in January.

The death penalty is not an option under Ohio law, because Ramsay is under 18. Ramsay could, however, face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Ramsay’s attorney declined to talk to reporters after a court hearing Friday. But Ramsay’s legal about-face happened before his trial was supposed to start Monday and after Kimbler this week declined to exclude evidence in the case — including Ramsay’s confession, a notebook with Ramsay’s hand-written fantasies about killing people and serial murderers, and information from Ramsay’s phone that includes short video clips of Douglas the night she died, both before and after the murder.

“There’s no way to express how much of a tragedy this is, for the Douglas family and for [Ramsay’s] family,” Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson said Friday after the hearing.

Thompson said he will ask the judge to put Ramsay away for the rest of his life.

“I can’t say in good faith the community will ever be safe if he’s free,” Thompson said.

When asked if Ramsay was on a path to becoming a serial killer, Thompson said “he may well have been on his way.”

On Friday — after Ramsay pleaded no contest — a judge found him guilty on all charges and lifted a gag order that had prevented prosecutors and defense attorneys from publicly discussing the case.

Court records and details provided by Thompson Friday revealed how police linked Ramsay to the slaying and more about what happened to Douglas at the Portage Street home where she’d lived for most of her life.

Investigators believe Douglas — a widow who lived alone — was killed around April 6, though police didn’t discover her body until April 9.

At the same time, Wadsworth police were investigating Ramsay for unrelated crimes, including the carjacking of a 50-year-old man who met Ramsay through the online dating app Grindr.

Ramsay’s mom feared Ramsay was the victim in the case and may have been sexually assaulted by the man he was accused of carjacking. She wanted police to investigate.

On April 16, Ramsay’s mom agreed to turn over her son’s phone to police.

“It is what it is,” Ramsay’s mom told police, court records show. “Whatever they find I pray to God there’s nothing too horrible in there.”

The next day, Ramsay’s mom dropped off the phone with police and signed a consent form allowing them to search it.

An officer started by looking at the phone’s search history and discovered Gavon Ramsay had been looking up information about Margaret Douglas.

Next the officer looked at images and made a disturbing discovery: Photos and video clips of what would turn out to be Douglas at her home during the early morning hours when she was killed — both while she was still alive and after she was dead.

In the images after her death, she was nude or partially nude and her killer’s hand in a loose, plastic glove is visible.

Police, after consulting with Thompson, arrested Ramsay hours later in Cuyahoga County. During the hourlong drive back to Wadsworth, police say he confessed.

Later, detectives obtained a warrant to search Ramsay’s room at his parents’ home and found, among other things, Douglas’ wallet, used plastic gloves and a purple notebook with Ramsay’s writing describing “fantasies about killing people, serial killer biographies and writings about strangling people,” court records show.

They also seized a bottle of Hollister cologne taken during the unrelated carjacking. Thompson said Friday he decided not to pursue charges against Ramsay in the carjacking because, while serious, they would pale compared with the unrelated murder and might have muddled the case.

If Ramsay wouldn’t have pleaded no contest Friday, a jury would have heard more about what happened to Douglas at the trial.

On Friday, Thompson said Ramsay slipped in through her back door and found her sleeping on a living room couch.

He used his phone to take pictures and silent video clips, one of which he said shows she’s alive, though he didn’t specify how.

Ramsay then strangled her. The teen couldn’t photograph it or take video, Thompson pointed out, because he needed both hands to kill his neighbor.

Medical evidence shows it would have taken several minutes for her to die, Thompson said.

Afterward, Ramsay lingered.

He stripped off Douglas’ bra, panties and housecoat and took more photos and video “that showed multiple acts on her body … that included some acts of a sexual nature,” Thompson said.

Mobile phone records show that Ramsay was in Douglas’ house for more than two hours during the time she was killed, Thompson said.

And for that, Ramsay — 81 years younger than Douglas — may be locked up for the rest of his life.

Wadsworth teen sentenced to life without parole for death of 98-year-old neighbor

MEDINA, Ohio — A Wadsworth teen was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the death of a 98-year-old neighbor found dead inside her home.

Gavon Ramsay, who was tried as an adult, pleaded no contest in November during his change of plea hearing. When a defendant pleads no contest, this is not an admission of guilt.

Ramsay, who was 17 at the time of the killing, was found guilty on the following charges: aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping, aggravated burglary and gross abuse of a corpse, according to court documents.

Margaret Douglas was found dead inside a closet in April after she was reported missing by an out-of-town relative after one of her friends had not been in contact with her since April 3.

Wadsworth police say that Ramsay walked through an unlocked door of the Douglas home on April 6, strangled the widow, stuffed her body in a closet and then covered her with clothing. Her wallet was stolen and found in Ramsay’s home during a search a couple of days after she was found dead, police said.

Wadsworth teen sentenced to life in prison for strangulation death of elderly neighbor

By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal
Posted Jan 4, 2019

MEDINA Seventeen-year-old Gavon Ramsay sneaked into his 98-year-old neighbor’s house through an unlocked door and took video of her sleeping on the couch.

Wearing plastic gloves, the Wadsworth teen strangled Margaret Douglas until she took her last breath and then spent two hours taking more videos and photographs of her corpse, including several of a sexual nature.

He then stuffed her body in a small closet, covered her with clothes and a vacuum cleaner and returned to his home five doors down before his parents awoke at 5 a.m.

These were among the brutal details of Douglas’ April 6 death that Medina County Common Pleas Judge Joyce Kimbler pointed to Thursday when she sentenced Ramsay to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Because of his age, this was the maximum possible sentence.

Kimbler said she found Ramsay to be “irreparably corrupt” and “unfit to reenter society.”

“This crime was depraved and premeditated and of a nature not previously seen in this community,” the judge said.

Ramsay showed little emotion when Kimbler announced her decision after a long and emotional court hearing that included testimony from the teen’s parents — who blame his actions on mis-prescribed prescription drugs. Stephen Ramsay, his father, wiped tears from his eyes in the back of the courtroom.

Ramsay plans to appeal.

Ramsay pleaded no contest and was found guilty in November of all of the charges against him, which included aggravated murder, murder, aggravated burglary, kidnapping and gross abuse of a corpse. He was automatically bound over from juvenile to adult court because of the severity of the charges, but didn’t face the death penalty because he was under 18.

Media and loved ones of both Ramsay and Douglas packed the courtroom Thursday for the sentencing. The hearing lasted 4½ hours, with Kimbler hearing from witnesses called by both sides in a rare mitigation hearing requested by Ramsay’s attorney.

Lynne Luna Jones, the chief forensic psychologist for the Psycho-Diagnostic Clinic who performed a court-ordered evaluation of Ramsay in November, testified that she diagnosed the teen with seven disorders. This included conduct disorder and sexual sadism disorder. She deemed his prognosis for rehabilitation “guarded,” which is in the middle of a spectrum in which “poor” is worst and “good” is best.

Jones concluded that Ramsay’s aggressive behaviors have increased, he doesn’t appear to want to change his behavior and he shows a “callous disregard for the harm he causes.” She recommended he undergo individual counseling, sex offender treatment and substance abuse treatment.

Christine Ramsay, Ramsay’s mother, however, tried to provide a more personal look at her son’s struggles when she took the stand. She acknowledged that her son has been in and out of trouble and counseling for the past 10 years. She said he returned to therapy last January after his school principal reported the teen was depressed and might harm himself.

Christine said the psychologist recommended that her son be put on medication, and the family’s pediatrician prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft. From January through March, she said, the pediatrician increased the amount of the drug the teen was taking.

During this time, Christine said she observed her son’s behavior change, with him becoming increasingly irritable and hostile and saying bizarre things.

Christine said she continued taking her son to counseling but didn’t know what else to do. After his arrest, she said she researched Zoloft and discovered the drug isn’t recommended to treat depression in juveniles. She contacted the pediatrician and had her son taken off the drug.

“If I could change one thing, I would never have agreed to put my son on Zoloft,” she said, getting teary.

Listening to his mother, Gavon Ramsay sniffled and became teary, the most emotion he showed during the hearing. Most of the time, he stared straight ahead or sat with his eyes downcast. That included when he listened to remarks from Cindy and Patricia Leasure, the niece and great-niece of Douglas.

Cindy Leasure described her aunt as an active 98-year-old who loved reading, gardening and still handled her own finances. She said Douglas was looking forward to turning 100 and everyone expected her to make it to that age.

Cindy and her husband, Howard, found Douglas’ body when police asked them to check on the house.

“I can’t even describe in words the horror that was,” Cindy Leasure said.

Patricia Leasure called Gavon Ramsay a coward who preyed on someone more vulnerable. She thinks he used her great-aunt as a warmup for the others he had written in a notebook that he wanted to kill.

“He is not safe to be on the streets,” she said. “He will hurt people again. He will kill people again.”

Thompson echoed these remarks when he urged Kimbler to sentence Ramsay to life without parole. He noted that Ramsay stored the images of Douglas’ death on his phone in a secret file called “dark” with the password “murder” and looked at them multiple times.

“It was cold, it was calculated, it was purposeful,” Thompson said. “By his own admission, if he hadn’t been stopped, he would have killed again.”

Ramsay apologized for what he did in a brief statement he read before he was sentenced. He said he doesn’t know how to explain what happened or why.

“I’d take it back in a heartbeat if I could,” he said. “I feel terrible for what I’ve done and I will never do anything like that again … I constantly life in regret and shame because of it.”

Wadsworth teen Gavon Ramsay sentenced for brutal murder of 98-year-old neighbor Margaret Douglas

On January 3, Gavon Ramsay, 17, of Wadsworth was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the brutal murder of 98-year old Margaret Douglas last April in her Portage Street home.

Ramsay pleaded ‘no contest’ to nine counts in connection with the murder in a Medina County court appearance last November Second, three days before his trial was set to begin. Ramsay’s attorney plans to appeal the sentence handed down by Judge Joyce Kimbler, which was the maximum allowed under state law.

Ramsay was charged as an adult and was found guilty of four counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of kidnapping and one count of gross abuse of a corpse.

The sentencing hearing took almost five hours to complete.

State v. Ramsay, 2020 Ohio 1203

{¶2} Mr. Ramsay murdered a 98-year old woman after breaking into her house. He then abused her corpse before stuffing it into a hall closet. He was 17 years old at the time. A few weeks later law enforcement found video evidence of the events on Mr. Ramsey’s cell phone while investigating a different matter. The Grand Jury indicted Mr. Ramsay on one count of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of kidnapping, and one count of abuse of a corpse. After the trial court denied Mr. Ramsay’s motion to suppress, he pleaded no contest to the offenses. The trial court found him guilty of the offenses and, following an evidentiary hearing, sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the aggravated murder offense. The court also sentenced Mr. Ramsay to 10 years for aggravated burglary, 10 years for kidnapping, and 12 months for abuse of a corpse, which it ordered to run consecutive to each other and to the sentence for aggravated murder.

Ramsay argued that

  • The trial court erred in imposing LWOP when the defense introduced evidence that he was capable of being reformed in the Ohio penal system, and all though his actions were heinous and calculated, they were probably isolated and unlikely to occur again.
  • The trial court did not specifically consider Ramsay’s age.
  • The trial court failed to merge aggravated burglary and kidnapping, with each other and with the aggravated murder counts.

Ramsay’s assignments of error were all overruled and his LWOP sentence was upheld.

Life sentence upheld for Wadsworth teen convicted of murder

Jonathan Delozier
The Gazette
Apr 03, 2020 6:00 AM

MEDINA — An appeals court has upheld a life sentence without the chance of parole for a Wadsworth teen convicted last year in the strangulation death of an elderly neighbor.

Gavon Ramsay, who was 17 and living in Wadsworth at the time of his sentencing, filed an appeal in February 2019 with the 9th District Court of Appeals, roughly one month after the life sentence was handed down by Medina County Common Pleas Court Judge Joyce Kimbler. The appellate court affirmed on March 31 the sentence against Ramsay on charges of murder, aggravated murder, kidnapping, gross abuse of a corpse and aggravated burglary.

The teen initially pleaded not guilty to those charges but later switched to a no-contest plea.

During the appeal process, Ramsay’s attorney argued the court had erred in sentencing him to life without parole for the aggravated murder offense, citing a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated “sentencing a child to life without parole is excessive for all but the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.”

It was also argued that Ramsay’s aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary convictions should have been merged with the aggravated murder conviction and with each other because all were committed at the same time and with the same intent, according to court documents.

Ninth District Court Judge Jennifer Hensal struck down those arguments Tuesday and upheld the initial sentence, saying that according to the Ohio Supreme Court, aggravated burglary and aggravated murder are not “allied offenses” even if committed simultaneously and with overlapping intent.

Medina County Prosecutor Forrest Thompson argued that Ramsay failed to make an argument to combine his kidnapping, aggravated murder and aggravated burglary convictions during his trial, which means he legally forfeited the right to ask for that in an appeal.

Ramsay was found guilty in November 2018, avoiding consideration of the death penalty due to being only 17 at the time of the slaying.

On April 9, 2018, relatives found the body of 98-year-old Margaret Douglas inside the closet of her Wadsworth home while performing a welfare check. It is believed that Ramsay killed her in the early morning hours of April 6, breaking into the home, strangling her while wearing plastic gloves and sexually assaulting her body while photographing the act.

Later that month, police found photos and videos of the crime on Ramsay’s cellphone while investigating a separate matter.

Douglas is believed to have been asleep on her couch when Ramsay attacked her. Police also found Douglas’ wallet in Ramsay’s bedroom and found one of his gloves inside her home.

During the pretrial hearings, experts testified that Ramsay suffers from numerous disorders including gaining sexual arousal from the suffering of others. The defense also argued that the teen’s behavior might have been made worse by taking the prescription antidepressant Zoloft.

During the sentencing hearing, Thompson said life without parole was appropriate for Ramsay.

“He wanted to kill somebody just to see how it felt,” Thompson said then. “He showed no remorse to anyone. He wasn’t repulsed. He was excited. No outside factors caused him to do it. He had been writing about murdering and raping people for months.”

Ohio lawmakers seek to stop sentences of life without parole for youth offenders

CLEVELAND, Ohio — At 18, Gavon Ramsay spends his days in a place he may never leave, an Ohio prison cell.

Ramsay, of Wadsworth, was sentenced to life in prison without parole last year for breaking into the home of his 98-year-old neighbor, Margaret Douglas, and strangling her. He was 17 at the time of the slaying, and he told authorities that he could kill again.

“I don’t know how to explain how this happened,’’ Ramsay said at his sentencing. “I don’t think there is an explanation. I would take it back in a heartbeat if I could.”

Ramsay punctuates the debate among Ohio lawmakers and prosecutors over a bill that could end life without parole sentences for youths who committed crimes before the age of 18.

The bill would prevent judges from sentencing young people to life terms for crimes of aggravated murder, terrorism and rape.

It would require the Ohio parole board to review the youths’ cases after 18 or 25 years, depending on the severity of the crime, to determine whether they have been rehabilitated and could be released.

If an inmate is denied, he or she can return to the board in 5 years. The bill is retroactive, so, if it is passed, it could impact Ramsay and hundreds of other inmates.

An estimated 50 to 60 inmates immediately would become eligible for a parole hearing if the bill becomes law, according to the Ohio Legislative Services Commission. In subsequent years, the numbers could be as low as 20 or 30. Authorities estimate only a handful would be released each year, but they are unsure until they review each case.

There are exceptions to the proposed law. T.J. Lane is one.

Lane killed three students and wounded three others in Chardon High School on Feb. 27, 2012. He was sentenced to three consecutive life prison terms. The bill says a person convicted of three or more homicides before the age of 18 would remain in prison without ever going before the parole board.

Twenty-three states have dropped life without parole for youths. Last month, Virginia offered the possibility of parole to anyone sentenced to life in prison without parole as a youth after they served 20 years for their crime.

“The person you are at 16 is not the person you are at 50,” said Tiffanny Smith of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. “The juvenile brain is not fully developed. They do things impulsively.”

Others disagree.

Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson handled Ramsay’s case. He became angry when discussing the possibility that Ramsay could one day be released from prison.

“Someone who has a propensity to become a serial killer and then gets out in 25 or 30 years? I don’t agree with that at all,” Thompson said.

“The trial judge has the information. The trial judge has the facts and hears from the victims’ families and the defendants. [The judge] takes into account the suspect’s age and maturity. The judge shouldn’t be second-guessed by a panel that has a sanitized version of what happened.”

Ramsay pleaded no contest to aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and abuse of a corpse. Common Pleas Judge Joyce Kimbler found him guilty and had a 6-hour sentencing hearing that went over every aspect of Ramsay’s mental health and criminal background, including his luring men for sex, only to rob them later.

“Every facet was reviewed,” Thompson said. “And yes, I agree with the sentence. It was appropriate.”

Sentence could shorten for Wadsworth teen convicted of murder

Jonathan Delozier

The Gazette

Jan 25, 2021 6:00 AM

WADSWORTH — A life sentence without parole handed down to a Wadsworth teen convicted of murder could be shortened under a state law change soon to be in effect.

Ohio Senate Bill 256 will grant parole eligibility to individuals convicted of violent crimes, including murder and rape, after serving 25 to 30 years in prison if they committed those crimes before turning 18.

Those convicted of aggravated murder as juveniles, such as Gavon Ramsay, of Wadsworth, will be evaluated for parole eligibility after serving 30 years. A new section of Ohio Revised Code states that parole board members must consider factors in the crime related to offenders’ age at the time, which for Ramsay was 17. It goes on to say “hallmark features, including intellectual capacity, immaturity, impetuosity, and a failure to appreciate risks and consequences” also will be part of future decision making.

Changes are slated to go into effect April 12.

Ramsay was found guilty in November 2018 for the murder of a 98-year-old Wadsworth resident, which took place April of that year and included sexual assault and strangulation.

Medina County Prosecutor Forrest Thompson said throughout his office’s examination of SB 256, they did not consider changes to be retroactive and don’t think they should apply to Ramsay.

“At least in our analysis, this is not retroactive,” he said. “While I’m assuming that the Supreme Court will have (Ramsay’s case) revisited, it is not going to be automatic as a result of Senate Bill 256. I will say, from our office’s perspective and the perspective of the victims, I disagree with the law.”

“I think that this undermines the seriousness of the act,” Thompson added. “It’s been a long-standing requirement that youth be considered when juveniles are tried as adults. That’s already been a major requirement for evaluation. It’s not like it’s been ignored or overlooked. It certainly wasn’t in this case.”

The bill’s text states that “if an offender receives or received a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, a sentence of life imprisonment, a definite sentence, or a sentence to an indefinite prison term under this chapter for an aggravated murder or murder that was committed when the offender was under eighteen years of age, the offender’s parole eligibility shall be determined under section 2967.132 of the Revised Code.”

On Dec. 31, the Ohio Supreme Court announced it had dismissed an appeal attempt on Ramsay’s behalf, which came after the 9th District Court of Appeals decided to uphold his life sentence in April.

Relatives found the body of 98-year-old Margaret Douglas on April 9, 2018, inside the closet of her Wadsworth home while performing a welfare check. It is believed Ramsay killed her in the early morning hours April 6, breaking into the home, strangling her while wearing plastic gloves and sexually assaulting her body while photographing the act.

Later that month, police found photos and videos of the crime on Ramsay’s cellphone while investigating a separate matter.

Ramsay filed an appeal in February 2019 with the 9th District Court of Appeals, roughly one month after the life sentence was handed down by Medina County Common Pleas Court Judge Joyce Kimbler. The appellate court affirmed March 31 the sentence against Ramsay on charges of murder, aggravated murder, kidnapping, gross abuse of a corpse and aggravated burglary.

The teen initially pleaded not guilty to those charges but later switched to a no contest plea.

Ramsay’s victim is believed to have been asleep on her couch when he attacked her. Police also found Douglas’ wallet in Ramsay’s bedroom and found one of his gloves inside her home.

During pretrial hearings, experts testified that Ramsay suffers from numerous disorders including gaining sexual arousal from the suffering of others. The defense also argued the teen’s behavior might have been made worse by taking the prescription antidepressant Zoloft.

During the sentencing hearing, Thompson said life without parole was appropriate for Ramsay. He emphasized Ramsay’s apparent lack of remorse following the murder and pointed to evidence showing the teen had been writing about murder.

On Sunday, the prosecutor stood firmly behind Ramsay’s life sentence.

“That sentence, was in my opinion, correct and just,” Thompson said. “I believe that any reduction of his sentence would be taking the matter not serious enough. We will certainly aggressively take all steps necessary to support the sentence as it stands.”

Contact reporter Jonathan Delozier at 330-721-4050 or jdelozier@medina-gazette.com.

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True crime show to reveal unshared details of Wadsworth’s ‘most horrific’ killing in years

Stephanie Warsmith Akron Beacon Journal

Margaret Douglas, 98, was killed in her Wadsworth home in April 2018.

Howard Leasure searched his 98-year-old’s aunt’s Wadsworth home in April 2018, hoping for clues about where she was.

He looked in the closet to see if he could find Margaret Douglas’ favorite shoes. He found one but realized it was attached to her dead body.

“I thought, ‘Oh lord, it’s her,’” Leasure recalled, breaking into tears. “I pretty much lost it…”

Leasure shared this painful memory in an episode of “Unexpected Killer” that will air Friday night  on the Oxygen network. The show details the murder of Douglas at the hands of Gavon Ramsay, her 17-year-old neighbor.

Ramsay was convicted of Douglas’ strangulation death in January 2019 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Gavon Ramsay is escorted by a sheriff's deputy in November 2018 prior to entering a no-contest plea for the murder of his neighbor.

Douglas’ family agreed to participate in the show last summer because they were hoping to call attention to then-pending legislation that removed life without parole as a sentencing option for juveniles convicted of serious crimes. They hoped highlighting the case might dissuade lawmakers, but the legislation passed. The law becomes effective April 12.

“We felt it was important to get the real story out — a lot of details were not known,” said Patricia Leasure, Douglas’ great niece. “We felt sharing the story would potentially show people there are special circumstances in which — just because someone is 17 — it doesn’t mean reformation is possible or parole is appropriate.”

Wadsworth Police Chief David Singleton called Douglas’ murder on April 6, 2018, “the most horrific crime” he has seen in his 28 years with the department.

Police discovered in their investigation that Ramsay sneaked into the home of Douglas — who never locked her door — and took a video of her sleeping on the couch. He strangled her and spent two hours taking more videos and photographs of her corpse, including several of a sexual nature. He then put her body in a small closet, covered her with clothes and a vacuum cleaner and returned to his home five doors down before his parents awoke.

“He just has evil in him to do something like that,” Singleton said. “That’s the only way I can explain it.”

Gavon Ramsay struggles to hold back tears as Medina County Common Pleas Judge Joyce Kimbler announced he will be transferred to jail after finding him guilty of multiple charges in November 2018.

Ramsay pleaded no contest and was found guilty in November 2018 of all the charges against him, which included aggravated murder, murder, aggravated burglary, kidnapping and gross abuse of a corpse. He had been bound over to adult court because of the severity of the charges, but didn’t face the death penalty because he was under 18.

During Ramsay’s sentencing, Christine Ramsay, his mother, detailed her son’s mental-health issues and how she had sought help for him through counseling and medication.

Patricia Leasure, however, called Gavon Ramsay a coward who preyed on someone more vulnerable. She said she thinks he used her great-aunt as a warmup for others he wanted to kill, whom he had written about in a notebook.

Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson (standing) argues for a prison sentence of life without parole for Gavon Ramsay, 17, (front) in Medina County Common Pleas Court in January 2019.

Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson echoed this concern as he urged Judge Joyce Kimbler to sentence Ramsay to life without parole.

Gavon Ramsay apologized and said he couldn’t explain what happened.

“I’d take it back in a heartbeat if I could,” he said. “I feel terrible for what I’ve done and I will never do anything like that again … I constantly live in regret and shame.”

Kimbler sentenced Ramsay to life without parole, calling Ramsay “unfit to re-enter society.”

Whether that sentence will remain, however, is unclear because of the new law that abolished life without parole as a penalty for juveniles, with young people given the chance to be considered for release after spending a specified amount of time in prison. Proponents said the U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences children to life without parole eligibility.

The idea was to give young people who commit serious crimes the opportunity to be released from prison if they are rehabilitated.

The change garnered some interesting allies, including Browns offensive linemen Chris Hubbard and Kendall Lamm, who wrote a letter to Ohio senators supporting the legislation. The players highlighted how five of the 12 people sentenced to life without parole as juveniles are Black, despite Black Ohioans comprising only 14.3% of the population.

Thompson, though, was among those who voiced opposition, pointing to the Ramsay case as a reason judges might want to impose such a harsh sentence.

Gavon Ramsay

Gavon Ramsay, who turns 20 next week, is incarcerated at Grafton Correctional Institution in Lorain County. He has so far lost his appeals.

Laura Austen, deputy director of policy and outreach for the Ohio Public Defender’s office that is representing Ramsay, declined to comment on his case.

Austen, however, did say her office supported the elimination of the life-without-parole penalty for juveniles.

“This aligns Ohio with 30 other states and over a decade of court precedent,” she said.

Thompson said Ramsay’s case may return to the trial court based on the new law.

“Based on legislative decisions, the family now has to relive the facts,” he said. “They were given some small measure of closure knowing he would never get out of prison.”

“Whatever has to be done, we will be prepared to do it,” he added.

Patricia Leasure, the great niece of Margaret Douglas is comforted after Gavon Ramsay, 17, is sentenced to life in prison without parole in Medina County Common Pleas Court in January 2019.

Patricia Leasure said her family has been through a roller-coaster ride since her aunt’s death, with the sentencing, Ramsay’s appeals and the debate on the new law. If Ramsay is ever eligible for parole, she said the family will oppose his release.

“We believe he is incapable of reform and, if he was back on the street, would be a danger to society and people in his community,” she said.

After her aunt’s death, Leasure, who lives in Michigan near Ann Arbor, said she had an alarm installed in her home and got a concealed carry permit and a gun — all steps she hadn’t fathomed previously. She said her parents, Howard and Cindy Leasure, share this unease.

“Our sense of safety was forever changed,” she said.

‘He Degraded Her Body’: Ohio Teen Murdered 98-Year-Old Neighbor For Sexual Thrill

Margaret Douglas Auk 210

Margaret Douglas’ murderer snuck into her home and took videos and photos of her sleeping before strangling her and abusing the body.BY SHARON LYNN PRUITT

An elderly woman looking forward to her 100th birthday had her life cruelly taken from her in a crime that shocked Wadsworth, Ohio in the spring of 2018.

On the morning of April 9, officers with the Wadsworth Police Department received a call from the family of Margaret Douglas, a 98-year-old woman who lived alone and hadn’t been heard from in a number of days. Police traveled to her home to perform a wellness check — and when they failed to find her, they launched a preliminary search.

Douglas’ nephew Howard Leasure and his wife, Cindy, quickly joined, meeting police at Douglas’ home that evening to look for any clues that she may have left of her own volition. It was when Leasure went to check his aunt’s closet that he made a horrifying discovery: What he thought were just Douglas’ shoes on the floor underneath a pile of clothing turned out to be Margaret Douglas herself, dead.

“I pretty much lost it. Something I’ll never forget, to find her like that,” Leasure told “An Unexpected Killer,” airing Fridays at 8/7c on Oxygen. 

The way Douglas was found, with her clothing disheveled and torn in some places, suggested that she had been sexually assaulted, while trauma on her neck suggested she’d been strangled. There were contusions and bruising to her head and face, and it was also clear she had been left there for a number of days.

Police suspected a burglary because Douglas’ wallet was missing, but as they searched the property, the only clue they found was a plastic glove that had been discarded near the back of the house.

Douglas, who lived alone following the death of her husband, was known for her independence and her love of life. Everyone in her neighborhood knew her and looked out for her, which made the question of who would kill her, and in such a heinous way, an even harder one to answer.

After interviewing the family, police decided to speak with a man named David, who looked after Douglas and would routinely come to her home to help out with chores. Initially, they were unable to reach him, but they soon found him hanging around outside Douglas’ house during the investigation. When confronted, he said that he was concerned because he used to be Douglas’ neighbor and that he wanted to know what was going on. However, he knew specific details of the murder, which made investigators suspicious. 

That suspicion only grew when they heard David had expressed concerns to others that his fingerprints would likely be found in Douglas’ house.

Police brought David in for questioning. He described stopping by Douglas’ house days before she was found and being unable to find her, which concerned police. However, he agreed to have his DNA tested to see if it was a match to the DNA found on the glove outside of Douglas’ home. Testing showed that it was not a match. He was also able to explain his whereabouts and addressed every concern that police had, proving their initial suspicion was merely a misunderstanding.

“He just really cared about Margaret and really had concern that he would have an answer as to what happened,” Dawn Schismenos, a sergeant with the Wadsworth Police Department, told producers.

As the investigation continued, the autopsy report came in, which showed no signs Douglas had been sexually assaulted, despite the fact that her underwear had been torn. Determined to find answers, police began to take a closer look at smaller crimes in the area and started investigating reports that a trailer at a construction site had been broken into. Whoever had done it had left their phone behind and police were able to track that phone to a young man named Zachary.

When they brought him in for questioning, he quickly revealed that a friend of his named Gavon Ramsay was not only involved in the trailer break-in, but also a string of petty crimes they’d committed before then. He insisted they had all been Ramsey’s idea.

Gavon Ramsey Auk 210

Ramsay was brought in for questioning accompanied by his mother, as he was underage. Seated in front of police, Ramsay began to admit to a number of things, like breaking into cars and stealing small items. He then, after asking his mother to leave the room, admitted to a more serious crime: recently car-jacking a man whom he’d met on a dating website. Still, when asked about Douglas’ murder, Ramsay denied it, but police had a gut feeling that he was hiding something.

Police looked through Ramsay’s phone and what they found was the biggest shock of all: There were photos and videos of Douglas that were taken in her own home but without her knowledge. Ramsay had secretly gotten into the house and recorded her.

Fearing that he may try to flee, police quickly took Ramsay into custody. Back in the interview room, he began his confession. He said that he’d snuck into Douglas’ house for the adrenaline rush and, once inside, had begun recording her while she slept. Then, when she woke up, he forced her onto the ground and strangled her before he realized what he was doing.

What he did next, however, he did not want to discuss, but investigators had evidence of the disturbing abuse to Douglas’ body.

“He degraded her body … videotaping and taking pictures. He’d actually been in there with her for a while,” Matt Markley, a detective with the Wadsworth Police Department, told producers.

He then moved her into the closet and fled the scene back to his home — which was in the same neighborhood as Douglas’ house. It was then police realized Ramsay likely knew Douglas and had chosen her specifically as his potential victim.

Police arrested Gavon Ramsay for murder. When they searched his house, they found all the evidence they needed: a glove matching the kind that was recovered from the scene, as well as Douglas’ missing wallet. They also found Ramsay’s journal; in it he’d written about serial killers and had described his fantasies involving rape and murder.

“After reading those, there was no doubt in my mind that Gavon would kill again if he had the opportunity,” Schismenos said. “This is something he enjoys, that he finds pleasure in.”

Ramsay was charged with murder along with other lesser offenses and stood trial as an adult. During the trial, Ramsay’s mother claimed that he’d been receiving counseling for years and that it was a doctor’s decision to prescribe him Zoloft that had changed him drastically and for the worse, according to the Times Reporter of Ohio.

Her testimony was not enough. At the age of 17, Gavon Ramsay was found guilty of all charges and received the harshest penalty possible: life in prison without parole.

Still, Margaret Douglas’ family was left to mourn a beautiful soul.“She was a wonderful woman,” Leasure said. “A great woman.”

For more on this case and others like it, watch “An Unexpected Killer,” airing Fridays at 8/7c on Oxygen or stream episodes any time on Oxygen.com.