She was a lively 58-year old woman with a large loving family and lots to live for.
Robert Plunkett-Morgan, age 39, and his “life partner” Jorge Morgan, age 24, thought otherwise.
Today Tracy, California is unfortunately better known as the city where Sandra Cantu was murdered in the spring of 2009. But there was another horrific murder at the end of last summer, on August 6, that of a vibrant mother of six who was proud of her Cherokee heritage, who wrote poetry and loved spending time with her kids and grandkids.
She knew one of the killers, Plunkett-Morgan, an acquaintance of one of her sons. Plunkett-Morgan actually phoned Cindy asking if he and Morgan could come to her home and leave her an early birthday present.
In thanks for Cindy’s hospitality, they strangled, stabbed 55 times and bludgeoned 13 times with a small safe, leaving her dead on the floor. According to information offered in the preliminary hearing by Detective Knight of the Tracy police department, in Morgan’s confession/statement, Plunkett-Morgan asked Cindy to take a seat and close her eyes—he was going to give her a necklace for her birthday. Instead, he put a rope around her neck and started pulling. She fought like a tiger. They’d also brought a knife—sounds pretty premeditated to me. That bloody knife was later found in the Morgan trailer, hidden under a makeshift toilet, along with some of Cindy’s belongings.
T & T readers, you know there is usually a twist in the cases we cover. This one quite possibly takes the cake.
Morgan and Morgan were no doubt the two most inept murderers/robbers ever. They were spotted by Cindy’s roommate leaving her pink mobile home after the crime with a small safe in hand, one known to contain Cindy’s jewelry. And, the pair, registered as domestic partners in San Joaquin County, also lived in the mobile home park. The pair was arrested later that day.
Jorge Morgan confessed to the crime. He said he and Plunkett-Morgan had been planning it for some time. Nice neighbors
Seriously, you’d think Plunkett-Morgan and Morgan would have been a bit sneakier about the whole thing. After all, the pair had met in prison, at Mule Creek. Each had been out of prison for less than a year; Plunkett-Morgan having been incarcerated for grand theft auto and Morgan for possession of stolen property. Both had served time for other serious felonies. Quite the pair.
They sealed their “marriage” by filing domestic partner paperwork in San Joaquin County in November 2008.
But that’s not the twist.
Here is the twist: for a short time after their arrest, they were housed together, in the same cell while cooling their jets at the Deuel Vocational Institution.
Do heterosexual married couples have the same privileges after they kill someone in broad daylight? Anyone?
If ever a case called for the death penalty, this one is it. There were three special circumstances attached to the crime—robbery, burglary, lying in wait and for two prior felony convictions—and being found of any of the three special circumstances would have kicked in death penalty eligibility. California’s “Three Strikes” law also applied to Plunkett-Morgan and Morgan. But what was one of the things that they asked for in court during preliminary hearings.
Sit down, please.
The pair wanted to be housed together (share a cell), and to have the right to sit next to each other on the bus to and from court, and to be able to sit together in the courtroom.
Because they could not sit next to each other in court, Plunkett-Morgan claimed they could not get a proper defense. San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Valli Israels and Cindy’s family properly argued that letting the two spend time together would encourage more plotting and planning. Recall there was an attack on a judge in her own courtroom in that very same courthouse in Stockton, California earlier that year, and the attacker was killed by a bailiff to protect the judge.
There is a law on the California books requiring inmates who are likely to be having sex to be housed apart. It is intended to prevent consensual sex as well as rape. At the time the couple plead not guilty on August 31, the younger Morgan was housed in solitary confinement (the pair had been moved from the San Joaquin County jail to DVI, where they were housed together for a short time), and the pair were made to sit a couple of chairs apart from each other whenever they made a court appearance.
Cindy’s family was outraged to learn that the couple had been housed together for a short time after their arrest. A court order had mandated the two not be allowed any contact; no shacking up, no sitting next to each other in the prison van on the way to court, no sharing a holding cell while at the courthouse. As former gang members, the two were to be kept separate on that basis as well.
The couple continued to fight their separation, and the defense asked for county council to intervene in September. Honestly, you’ve just murdered someone in cold blood, you are a “three strikes” felon and you are facing the death penalty, but the most pressing problem you have is wanting to be with and near your “life partner.”
The suspects also acted out in court. Inmates making appearances in court share hallways with the general public. During a November court appearance, Jorge Morgan, ever the badass, taunted Cindy’s son and wife while in the hallways, holding his shackled hands high and yelling, “This don’t mean shit. I’ll do life. I did it … and I’d do it again.”
During that same court appearance, he was made to wear a facemask as he was spitting, kicking, and hollering obscenities at people.
Finally in October 2009, Judge Bernard Garber ruled the pair could not sit next to each other in court or meet with their attorneys (together) for four hours at a time.
Plunkett-Morgan and Morgan claimed other inmates were hassling them. Plunkett-Morgan also claimed that he’d learned in a criminal justice class that he’d taken while in prison (yeah say it out loud, WTF???) that inmates who were gang drop-outs are allowed to mingle in jail, ride buses together and share cells at the courthouse. He was being housed in AdSeg custody. Plunkett-Morgan also took his “case” to the media, claiming he suffered from grand mal seizures and that there would be a delay in his treatment if he had a seizure while in the courtroom, and how Jorge would know how to take care of him while he was seizing.
I am serious. Read that here
Claiming to have a seizure disorder brings privileges to inmates. There is a disproportionate number of inmates with seizure disorders when compared with the general population, and this is due to the lifestyles they may lead: violence, drug abuse. Self-reporting a seizure disorder moves an inmate to the head of the line for medical care. I should know. My nursing career was ended by an inmate faking seizures … so I have no sympathy for this creep, none whatsoever. The punk who did me in did 90 extra days, I’ve done 20 years and three back surgeries. But I digress …
I encourage you to visit the website set up by Cindy’s family. There are links to stories and so much of what went on in this case is simply beyond belief.
Meanwhile, Cindy Ramos is still dead, while this “couple” fight for their right to be together, ‘cause they are married and all.
Somewhat mercifully, this whole ugly crime has come to a quick resolution. Not a satisfying resolution, but a quick one.
On January 25, the San Joaquin County DA announced the death penalty would be taken off the table if the Morgans were found guilty. And on February 2, Robert Plunkett-Morgan and Jorge Morgan pled guilty to the murder of Cindy Ramos and accepted the penalty of life in prison. At least Cindy’s kids got to face her murderers and tell them what they thought … a small victory.
But of course the biggest issue for this pair of fumble bums is they want to be together. That’s why I’ve chosen to post this story and links.
What I am about to write may piss some of you off.
I believe with all of my heart that these two were given a break because the San Joaquin County DA’s office did not want to risk seeking the death penalty on a pair of openly gay men who have filed a domestic partnership. The gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangendered lobby is small but vocal and well organized, and I believe that county simply didn’t want to deal with it. But there is still an issue at hand: heterosexual couples convicted of a crime are not housed together—what makes this different?
In the links below I have included letters written by Plunkett-Morgan to a local newspaper reporter. Have your emesis basis ready. Your tax dollars are at work giving this lowlife two hot meals a day, free housing, free medical care. I am sure he does not thank you.
Please take the time to write your local elected reps. Even if you are not in California, it’s simply a matter of time that this happens in your state. Criminals like the Morgans already have entirely too many rights, while victims and their families have none.
After all, it isn’t called the “criminal” justice system for no reason…