Man, 29, acquitted in killing of woman

Judge delivers verdict, complaining from bench that police investigation of case was insufficient

January 11, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,sun reporter

A disc jockey accused of strangling his girlfriend was acquitted yesterday after a trial that stuck on the question of whether the woman committed suicide.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Paul E. Alpert, who decided the case, complained from the bench that the city police investigation was not thorough enough for him to be certain what happened to Anuradha Ramasamy.

Thomas Ryan Jr., 29, who worked in several popular city clubs, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ramasamy, a 26-year-old graphic designer known to her friends as Anu.

A couple for three years, Ryan and Ramasamy were staples of Baltimore nightlife and had a large network of friends on the online community MySpace.

At a homecoming yesterday evening at a friend's house, Ryan said he could now begin the grieving process -- something he said he was unable to do during his seven months in jail. He said he has thought about Ramasamy "every second of every day." He said he now wants to pick up the pieces of his life.

"The truth being known is just as important as the not-guilty verdict," Ryan said. "I will not be able to fully move on with my life unless the truth is known."

Ryan says he found his girlfriend's body, a curling iron cord wrapped around her neck, hanging from a bedroom ceiling fan May 28 in her Remington apartment. He told police he pulled her down and ran to call for help.

Police and prosecutors alleged that Ryan strangled Ramasamy a day after they'd had a fight and concocted the suicide story.

The cord was looped twice and knotted around Ramasamy's neck, and officers found the curling iron barrel and a pull-chain from the fan near her body on the bed. A detective testified that he suspected right away that Ryan had killed Ramasamy.

Just before he announced his verdict, Alpert said Ryan "may have strangled her, but I can't convict someone on what might have happened."

Alpert, a judge for 34 years, said he was "somewhat surprised there was not a more thorough investigation of the ceiling fan and cord." He said the evidence presented had left him with many unanswered questions -- enough that he felt the case was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

City police spokesman Matt Jablow disputed the judge's comments. "We respectfully but vigorously disagree with Judge Alpert. This case was thoroughly and professionally investigated, and a strong case was presented," Jablow said. "Even after the verdict, the prosecutor in the case told our detectives that we did everything that we possibly could to obtain a conviction."

"We are extremely surprised and disappointed that Judge Alpert would completely discount the physical evidence in the case and the medical examiner's report and testimony," he said.

The three-day trial hinged on whether Ryan's statement to police was medically possible, given the condition of the body. The state medical examiner ruled Ramasamy's death a homicide, but a defense expert, Washington's former chief medical examiner, testified that the death was a suicide.

The state autopsy showed that Ramasamy had high blood levels of alcohol and cocaine.

Ryan, who elected to have a judge rather than a jury decide his case, took the stand twice in his own defense. He testified during a pretrial hearing about a taped statement he gave police, and again Monday about finding his girlfriend's body. Ryan testified that he and Ramasamy had snorted cocaine early May 27.

Yesterday, Alpert said he had been "impressed with the candor" of Ryan. Alpert also said Ryan's alibi witnesses, who had accounted for his whereabouts, were believable.

The verdict triggered a wave of emotions in a courtroom packed with the couple's friends. Ryan's friend, Samantha Wales, wept in relief; Ramasamy's friend, Colleen K. Broersma, put on dark sunglasses and left the courtroom.

Both women had testified. Broersma was the last person to have a phone conversation with Ramasamy, helping to establish her time of death. Wales had been Ryan's main alibi witness.julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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