Arrest made in killing; suspect’s bail set at $1 million

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  • (Photo by KEITH KINNAIRD) Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler speaks at a Friday press conference where sheriff’s office officials announced that Judith Marie Carpenter, 57, of Coeur d’Alene had been arrested in the April 2017 murder of former Hope city clerk Shirley Ramey.

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    Carpenter

  • (Photo by KEITH KINNAIRD) Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler speaks at a Friday press conference where sheriff’s office officials announced that Judith Marie Carpenter, 57, of Coeur d’Alene had been arrested in the April 2017 murder of former Hope city clerk Shirley Ramey.

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    Carpenter

Case is first homicide in Idaho cracked by NIBIN

SANDPOINT — The positive match of shell casings in the killing of Shirley Ann Ramey marked the first time the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network has been used to solve a homicide in Idaho, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent said on Friday.

Special Agent Darek Pleasants said NIBIN has been used in Idaho for gun-related crimes, but none involving a murder.

“This is the first NIBIN-linked case for homicide in the state of Idaho,” Pleasants, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Seattle division, said during a press conference at the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office.

The NIBIN program allows for the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence. In the Ramey case, shell casings found at the crime scene matched casings test fired from Judith Marie Carpenter’s Glock Model 19 semiautomatic pistol. The casings were matched by examining the mechanical fingerprints the Glock imprinted on the casings.

“When a firearm fires, the projectile is under a lot of pressure and it leaves indelible forensic tool marks on the shell casing from the extractor, from the firing pin and from the process of ejecting that fired casing from the weapon,” Pleasants said.

Pleasants said casings entered into NIBIN are subjected to high-definition, 360-degree imaging. The 4,000-pixel images allow for detailed analysis and comparison.

NIBIN has been utilized by the ATF since the late 1990s.

“The NIBIN program is growing nationwide. What we’re doing in eastern Washington and here in Idaho is taking that focus to rural communities,” Pleasants said.

Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler said he was grateful to ATF Special Agent James Butler for requesting the NIBIN analysis.

“If it weren’t for his tenaciousness and his interest in the case, we wouldn’t be here today,” Wheeler said.

SANDPOINT — A Coeur d’Alene woman was arrested early Friday morning and charged with the shooting death of Shirley Ann Ramey, who was executed in her Trestle Creek home in 2017.

Judith Marie Carpenter is charged with first-degree murder. She was arrested on a $500,000 warrant in a pre-dawn raid at her home by members of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office and the Coeur d’Alene Joint Tactical Response Team, Bonner County Sheriff’s officials said.

Carpenter, 57, made an initial appearance in Bonner County Magistrate Court on Friday afternoon via videoconferencing with the Bonner County Jail. Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall recommended Carpenter’s bail be doubled.

“We feel that a million dollars would be more appropriate given the first-degree murder charges,” Marshall said.

The state further recommended that Carpenter be ordered to surrender her passport and wear a GPS-enabled monitor if she is able to post bail.

Carpenter objected, saying she would be unable to post bond even if it remained at $500,000.

“It’s an alleged crime right now. It’s not something that I did do,” Carpenter said, adding that she is not a flight risk.

Judge Tera Harden adopted the state’s recommendations.

“This is a crime in which you face up to life in prison or the death penalty,” Harden said.

Outside the hearing, Carpenter’s husband, Jim Flannery, said his wife was innocent.

“I can tell you it’s wrong. I know damn well it’s wrong,” Flannery said.

Flannery added that the police raid, which involved up to 30 law officers, was a “ridiculous” overreaction. He did not know why authorities suspected his wife in Ramey’s killing.

“I can’t figure it out yet,” he said.

A criminal complaint alleges Carpenter shot and killed Ramey with premeditation on April 5, 2017. It’s alternatively alleged that Carpenter killed Ramey during the commission of a burglary.

Ramey, a 78-year-old retired clerk for the city of Hope, was found dead in her home by her husband. She was shot twice in the head while standing in or near her back door, according to Det. Sgt. Phill Stella’s probable cause affidavit.

Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler held a press conference on Friday to shed light on the investigation into Ramey’s killing.

Wheeler said the case was broken using the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives’ National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, which allows for the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence.

“It was because of this great tool we found an eventual match of the casings that were collected at the scene of the homicide to another incident that occurred in Libby, Mont.,” Wheeler said.

Incredibly, the murder weapon and a rifle which was later discovered to be stolen from the Ramey home have been in police custody since the day of the killing.

Wheeler said Carpenter was arrested in Lincoln County the same day Ramey was killed for allegedly pointing a gun at another motorist. Lincoln County deputies seized a Glock Model 19 semiautomatic pistol and a Savage Model 99 lever-action rifle that was later determined to belong to the Rameys.

Photos of the guns showed there was blood on the frame of the pistol and on the side of the rifle, according to court documents. But the presence of the bodily fluid did not arouse Lincoln County deputies’ suspicion and it wasn’t tested at the time, Wheeler said.

At the scene of Ramey’s killing, investigators discovered two spent 9-millimeter shell cases. Two more shell casings were found near a camp trailer that was parked near the Ramey home. The trailer had two fresh bullet holes, according to court documents.

Both sets of casings had a 9-millimeter Luger Remington-Peters headstamp, the markings stamped into the bottom of a cartridge which identify the manufacturer and the firearm for which the cartridge is designed.

The casings were turned over to the ATF for NIBIN analysis in 2018. The agency also put out a request to regional police agencies to see if they had recovered any 9-millimeter Glocks around the time of Ramey’s killing. Carpenter’s Glock was test fired and the casings were entered into the NIBIN database, which produced a match.

Moreover, an Idaho State Police lab analysis of a bullet recovered from the crime scene matched projectiles test fired from Carpenter’s pistol.

Carpenter purchased the gun at a Coeur d’Alene sporting goods store in 2005. Authorities also have evidence she possessed the pistol in the days leading up to the killing because Carpenter had to check the firearm at the Canadian border, Wheeler said.

“Based on the totality of all the evidence, we have no doubt that we have the right person responsible for the Shirley Ramey murder,” Wheeler said.

Nathan Lane Utt, the inhabitant of the bullet-damaged trailer, was originally a suspect in the murder because of his proximity to the crime scene and was also caught on a bar’s surveillance camera making homicidal threats against old people, Wheeler said. He was cleared as a suspect when it was conclusively established that he was out of state on the day Ramey was killed.

Wheeler said blood evidence collected from the pistol and the rifle is being analyzed by ISP, but results aren’t expected for several months.

“We’re hoping there is going to be a match to Shirley Ramey, but at this point we don’t know,” he said.

Wheeler said Ramey’s husband, Daryl, was “relieved” to learn of Carpenter’s arrest.

“It’s affected the whole community in Bonner County, especially the community in Hope and Clark Fork,” said Wheeler. “This is really going to bring, hopefully, some closure to this incident.”

Wheeler said investigators do not believe Ramey’s killing is linked to the killing of George Andres, a 73-year-old who was found shot to death at his Clark Fork home in December 2017.

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

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