When her daughter’s drug abuse and mental illness left her grandson in peril, Yalerkis “Gigi” Ramos turned to the state for help.
Ramos wanted child welfare workers to keep her daughter away from 2-year-old Alphonse Gonzalez, a curly-haired little boy who slept in red Mickey Mouse pajamas. Instead, the Department of Children & Families gave her a contract in which her daughter, Nathaly Ramos, pledged to keep the youngster safe — but was allowed to keep seeing the boy, who was placed by the agency with his uncle and grandmother.
It was called a safety plan. But it couldn’t protect Alphonse from his own mother.
On Sunday, 22-year-old Nathaly Ramos — a black belt in jiu jitsu — stabbed her boyfriend with a knife as he slept, plunged the blade into Alphonse’s neck and then gashed herself. Police say an unidentified person in the home stopped her from killing herself. Ramos and her boyfriend survived the attack. Alphonse did not. He died in his grandmother’s arms on the way to Homestead Hospital.
“I worried about Nathaly seeing Alphonse,” Gigi Ramos said, as she choked back tears, adding that she last called DCF the day before the murder. “I felt afraid for my grandson's life.”
“My grandbaby has to be dead for them to get to my house,” she said. “We’ve been calling them. I’ve talked to the cops. We’ve left voicemails. Nothing.”
Alphonse was the second Miami-Dade child to die from the abuse or neglect of his own mother in just the past month, police say. One-year-old Ethan Coley died of an untreated scalding on Jan. 18 when his mother, Christina Hurt, failed to seek medical attention. Prosecutors are charging Hurt with second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.
State child welfare administrators declined to discuss Alphonse’s death in detail Monday, or to release any records associated with the case. In a short statement, DCF acknowledged that the Ramos family had “involvement with the child welfare system” prior to Alphonse’s death.
DCF spokeswoman Jessica Sims said that Alphonse and his mother “were involved in the early stages of an open child protective investigation and when the child was determined to be unsafe in the initial assessment, a [safety] plan was initiated, and Alphonse was placed with family so his uncle and grandmother could safely care for him during the investigative process.”
Leaving the boy with family, Sims said, “minimizes trauma to the child and is done with the belief that family can keep the child safe while we continue to investigate and assess risk.”
If DCF didn’t think Nathaly was abiding by her safety plan, Sims said, “more aggressive action would have been taken by the department to place the child into foster care.”
“We are horrified by this young boy’s death and are grieving with the community and all those who love him,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in the statement. “DCF has an open investigation into the circumstances surrounding this tragedy and will coordinate with law enforcement in any way we can. DCF will also conduct a thorough quality assurance review of all interactions this family had with the child welfare system.”
Gigi Ramos showed the Herald a copy of the safety plan Monday night, which listed Nathaly Ramos, Gigi Ramos and Nathaly’s 21-year-old brother, David Caceres, as responsible for carrying out the plan. Among the promises Nathaly Ramos made: Getting inpatient services and leaving her child in the care of her brother under Gigi Ramos’ roof.
“DCF never checked up on my grandson or my daughter,” she said, adding that parts of the plan were left blank and bare, including a section about what “danger threats” the child was exposed to. According to the document, child protection investigators were responsible for monitoring the baby. “Just look at the plan, it’s empty; nothing there.”
The plan came Jan. 14 after Gigi ran into Nathaly — who once dreamed of being a neuropsychologist and took classes at Miami Dade College — on the streets. She saw her daughter strung out on drugs; her grandson, on the curb in a stroller.
“That’s when I knew I had to take action,” Gigi said. “I felt it in my gut. That’s when I knew my grandson would be in danger so I called DCF.”
That same day, a DCF caseworker showed up at a shelter in Overtown where her daughter was staying. It was at that point that the baby was handed over to Caceres and Gigi Ramos.
Gigi Ramos said her grandson was nicknamed “Monkey,” and was a green-eyed, bubbly toddler who loved miniature Christmas trees and adored a toy plane he had been given less than a week before he died.
“He lit up when he would see his mom,” she said.
Police say his mother went on a rampage early Sunday morning. Nathaly Ramos, who police said was homeless, stabbed her boyfriend nearly to death in bed. She then drove six miles to her mother’s home, stabbed the baby in the throat and then tried to kill herself.
“He was choking on his own blood. I tried to give him CPR to resuscitate him. But I couldn’t do it,” Gigi Ramos said.
Ramos said it was about 6:30 in the morning when her daughter knocked on the door of her apartment inside a South Dade low-income housing complex claiming she had been raped and needed to see her son. After being let inside, she went into the bedroom where her son was sleeping next to Caceres and quietly stabbed her baby.
“My son woke up to the sound of Alphonse crying,” she said. “He got up to turn on the light to find Nathaly with her head down toward the bed, silent, blood everywhere.”
Gigi Ramos said “the rest was a blur.”
“I lost a daughter and a grandson in a minute. Nobody but me would feel that pain,” she told the Miami Herald.
Now, a grief-stricken grandmother is left having to bury her grandson and cope with the fact that her own daughter was the killer. On Monday, she took to social media for help in burying the boy.
“Like most of you already know there was a tragedy in my family, something unexplainable,” she said, referring to the murder as a “disgrace” in Spanish. “I am reaching to all of my friends and family to help me give my grandbaby a decent burial.”
“My heart is empty right now. I would never forgive her. No matter what, I will never forgive her,” Gigi Ramos said in an interview. “But at the same time, I feel like she’s my daughter. I feel love for her. I’m so confused.”
While police haven’t disclosed what led to the tragedy, a close friend of the family pointed to intractable mental illness in a Facebook post.
“Over the years she was suffering depression. Many who know her close enough know this about Nathaly,” said Erica Alejandra Sands. She was “the sweetest yet the saddest.”
The post included undated photos of a smiling Nathaly wearing a fancy gown and a tiara and sparkling heels.
“The Nathaly we always knew loves kids, including mine. I can’t find myself saying ugly things,” Sands said in the post. “I can only cry and pray for her and her mom and her poor lil’ baby. My heart is heavy. #depressionisnojoke.”
Nathaly Ramos’ online photos stand in stark contrast with her Sunday police booking photo, which shows a disheveled young woman with a large gash in her throat, unkempt curly hair and a drab green hospital gown. Ramos is being held with no bond at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.
Ramos’ mother partly blames Alphonse’s death on his mother’s severe addiction to drugs, including Molly, a recreational drug also called ecstacy.
The GoFund Me page — which had raised $6,110 as of early Tuesday morning out of a $15,000 goal — was set up by Ramos’ aunt, Greisy Almeida.
“I am the aunt of the murderer, sister of the grandma and great-aunt of the victim [Alphonse Gonzalez],” Almeida said.
“This 2-year-old was killed by his own mother, while he was sleeping. It is believed that she committed this crime under the influence of drugs. The family is devastated and in shock, no one was ready for the life of a 2-year-old to end so suddenly, especially not by the person that brought him into this world in the first place.”