For more than two years, Maria Ramirez had attended every hearing of the suspect, Christopher Sodaro. Matthew Ramirez died at age 16, walking home from a friend's house on a cold February night in 2006, shot because Sodaro mistakenly thought he was in a gang, authorities said.
Police never found a weapon, Sodaro never admitted guilt and the state's best witness was another gang member. And so in July a judge released Sodaro, now 17, saying there wasn't enough evidence to convict him.
The justice system was unable to provide any closure for Mrs. Ramirez but the thug life that Sodaro led certainly did.
Then on an October night, she got the news. The teen accused of killing her son was dead. Sodaro had gotten into a fight with rival gang members, and he was dragged by a car to his death. Nobody has been charged.
Mrs. Ramirez summed up her feelings on Sodaro's death.
"I'm extremely happy. This kid, this guy was a hard-core gang banger," she said recently. "At least now he's not out on the street, able to do what was done to me to another mother. At least he can't kill another now."
She knows some might disapprove of her honesty. She doesn't care.
Unfortunately the trade off was hardly fair. A good kid's life traded for a thug's life. No Mrs. Ramirez, I don't disapprove of your honesty, you have every right to feel that way.