King of the County Pedophiles

The life, death and final escape of Eleuterio Ramos

Related story: The Damning Documents

(Editor's note: the names of sex-abuse victims are pseudonyms.)

The blood. And shit. And semen. Robert can't get it out of his mind, his dreams, his life.

Father Eleuterio Ramos
Father Eleuterio Ramos
Ramos as a young man.
Ramos as a young man.

He was 14 in the summer of 1984. He had moved with his family to Texas sometime before and now, on summer vacation, had returned with them to visit friends and old neighbors in Santa Ana. While in his former hometown, Robert's family ran into their old parish priest, Father Eleuterio Ramos. Ramos had tickets to the Olympic gold-medal soccer game at the Rose Bowl that week. He had invited Robert's former neighbor, Michael, but Michael refused. Robert agreed.

The day before the match, Robert and Ramos spent the day in Tijuana. They rode horses, ate lunch and, despite Robert's youth, knocked back beers. They crossed the border and visited a porn store in San Diego, where they were going to stay the night. As Robert skimmed through the movies, he noticed Ramos talking to three strangers who eyed Robert and occasionally nodded.

Later that night, Robert hopped into the shower. Ramos joined him. He grabbed Robert's penis, snapped some Polaroids and began orally copulating the teen while ramming a finger in his anus.

After Robert ejaculated, Ramos led him to bed. A knock on the door. The three men from the porn store entered, blindfolded Robert and tied him up. Ramos grabbed his Polaroid.

For the rest of the night, the three men took turns raping Robert. Two men would sodomize him at the same time while the other forced Robert to blow him. Then they would switch: the two men would simultaneously put their penises in Robert's mouth while their partner anally raped him; sometimes the impotent Ramos joined by orally copulating Robert. But he mostly stood off to the side, snapping pictures. Robert finally passed out.

The 14-year-old awoke the next day to Ramos trying to fellate him once more. Robert pushed him off. He took off the blindfold. A frothy mixture of blood, feces and semen stained the hotel bed sheets.

Robert was just one of more than 25 boys Ramos admitted to fondling, drugging, groping, gang-raping, sodomizing, photographing and fellating during a decade-long career in Orange County parishes from Placentia and Santa Ana to Brea, La Habra and Anaheim. Controversy engulfed Ramos at every stop. His superiors typically listened to the priest's critics and took notes—and then let Ramos escape to the next parish.

Through the years, victims sued Ramos. They filed police reports, to no avail. But in the spring of 2004, as lawyers, victims and police investigators made one final push to bring Ramos to justice, the priest performed the ultimate escape: Ramos died.

Everyone called him Big Al. Though he stood 5-foot-7, there was no screwing around with Father Eleuterio Ramos. The man was large, bearded and loud. He was a priest, but he liked to get drunk and rumble at bars. If anybody screwed around during Mass, Big Al screamed at the culprit. Despite that, all the altar boys wanted to work with Big Al. He cussed freely and told the funniest, most inappropriate jokes: “An Easter bunny doesn't lay eggs, it gets laid” was a favorite. And after Mass, back in the sacristy, Ramos passed around the consecrated wine. He wasn't like the other priests, the altar boys told their jealous friends: Big Al was one of them.

Big Al liked to take his servers after Mass to Camelot, a miniature golf and arcade mecca off the 91 freeway in Anaheim. While the boys played the latest video games, Ramos contented himself with pinball. If they didn't go to Camelot, Big Al treated them to R-rated movies, wine coolers, beer, firecrackers, cigarettes, even Playboy magazine. All for a job well done, he told his altar boys.

Interviews, psychological records and court filings of more than a dozen Ramos victims show Ramos would employ the same tactics over and over in molesting his victims. On the drive home or in a movie theater, if it was just Big Al and a boy, the priest would grab the boy's crotch over his clothes. If the boy didn't complain—and they rarely did—Ramos would invite the boy to his rectory room to stay the night. Ramos would call the boy's parents; the parents never objected.

In the rectory room, there was more alcohol—usually a screwdriver, a potent cocktail of orange juice and vodka that the kids would mistake for rotten orange juice. There was more porn. More cigarettes. More groping. In his room, Big Al pulled down a screen, loaded an eight-millimeter film projector, and screened hardcore gay porn. He asked the boy to take off his clothes. If the boy wasn't yet erect, Big Al began fondling him. Once the boy was erect, Big Al started snapping Polaroids. He'd stash each still-developing picture in the top drawer of his bedside cabinet, where he kept the other photos.

If the boy was prepubescent, Big Al would give him a toy—often a Star Wars figure—to distract him from what happened next. He liked fellating boys until the victim ejaculated in his mouth. On some occasions, other men—other priests—enjoyed the boy as Big Al took pictures.

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