Murder allegation costly to Utt, family

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  • A makeshift memorial to murder victim Shirley Ann Ramey has been erected at the corner of Highway 200 and Trestle Creek Road. (Photo by KEITH KINNAIRD)

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    A rock with Shirley Ramey's name written onto it is nested among flowers.

  • A makeshift memorial to murder victim Shirley Ann Ramey has been erected at the corner of Highway 200 and Trestle Creek Road. (Photo by KEITH KINNAIRD)

  • 1

    A rock with Shirley Ramey's name written onto it is nested among flowers.

SANDPOINT — No developments were reported Friday in the investigation into the shooting death of Shirley Ann Ramey or the hunt for her killer.

Rainey, 78, was found dead inside her Trestle Creek Road home on Wednesday, April 5.

A neighbor, Nathan Lane Utt, was initially implicated in Ramey’s killing and was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder several days after the shooting. The state, however, moved to dismiss the charge against Utt after it emerged that he had a verified alibi placing him in an Oregon hospital at the time of Ramey’s murder.

Utt’s aunt, Judith Landis, expressed her sorrow over Ramey’s death on Friday.

“We pray and we hope they find whoever did it,” Landis said.

Landis also said her nephew’s life has been turned upside down by being accused of Ramey’s murder. Vigilantes sprayed gunfire at Utt’s camper trailer, which left him essentially homeless. Landis added that Utt’s mother had to be hospitalized over fears that she was on the verge of having a heart attack.

Utt, 41, is a diagnosed schizophrenic who lived on the fringes of society in Bonner County. He had no running water or electricity and was known to frequent food banks and other charitable outlets.

Landis said Utt took pride in purchasing the camper and for managing to live on his own. Moreover, he is a good person, Landis said.

“A lot of people don’t really know Nathan. They know him as a street person,” said Landis.

However, another member of Utt’s family told Bonner County sheriff’s investigators of troubling remarks Utt had made at a downtown restaurant in the days leading up to Ramey’s killing. Service staff said Utt was causing a disruption by talking about strangling and shooting people, and pantomiming the firing of a gunshot, an incident which appeared to be corroborated by video footage collected from the restaurant’s surveillance system, according to court documents.

Detective Sgt. Gary Johnston testified during a probable cause hearing that the shooting gesture Utt made with his hand stood out to him because it squared with his belief that Ramey was summarily slain.

“It appeared to me to be an execution-style murder that occurred at the Ramey residence,” Johnston testified during the April 7 hearing.

Ramey suffered a gunshot wound to her cheek and another grazing wound that was caused when she turned her head or because the shooter was off-target, according to court documents. Two 9-millimeter shell casings were discovered on a deck near an open sliding glass door.

Shirley Ramey was found lying on the floor of the home near the open door, according to court documents.

Robbery and burglary were ruled out as motives because nothing, including Ramey’s purse, was missing from the home, court records indicate.

Ramey’s husband of 57 years, Daryl, was cleared as a suspect after submitting to gunshot residue tests and cooperating unreservedly with the investigation, Johnston testified during the hearing. Daryl Ramey told investigators he came home from playing cards at a senior center in Clark Fork and discovered his wife.

Landis believes suspicion fell to her nephew because of his lifestyle and background.

“He was a great target. For seven whole days, they were only looking for Nathan and whoever who did it is still out there,” she said.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybeec.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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