King of the County Pedophiles

The life, death and final escape of Eleuterio Ramos

Big Al Ramos molested boys everywhere. His rectory. Cabins in Big Bear. Motels in San Diego. Dallas. Tijuana. Cars. Movie theaters. The Motel 6 in Orange off the 5 freeway. But regardless of the location or circumstances, each molestation finished the same way: Ramos gargled with Listerine.

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Eleuterio Victor Ramos Jr. was born in 1940 in Montebello, the fourth of five children. “My son always wanted to be a priest,” Eleuterio Sr. told The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, years later, and the parents helped young Eleuterio reach his dreams from an early age. They enrolled him in Queen of Angels Seminary High School in San Fernando, a high school for boys bound for the priesthood. “I always felt that given the chance to be a priest, I would take it,” Ramos told The Tidingson the eve of his graduation in 1966 from St. John's Seminary in Camarillo. “It is hard to pinpoint anything specific. But there was something attractive about seeing those priests, their life of helping people.”

{mosimage} Ramos had barely taken his priestly vows before accusations of pedophilia began swirling around him. He is named in nine sex-abuse lawsuits currently in litigation dating to his years as an associate pastor in parishes across Los Angeles County from 1966 to 1975; one victim claims Ramos orchestrated a gang rape of her as a 10-year-old in 1968 at St. Thomas the Apostle Parochial School in Los Angeles after she told another priest Ramos was molesting a boy. His superiors found Ramos “immature” and bounced him from parish to parish until March 5, 1975, when church officials moved Ramos to Orange County, at the back end of the Los Angeles archdiocese in Placentia's St. Joseph church.

Werner Meissner
Werner Meissner

But not even a month had passed at St. Joseph before Ramos molested a child. In a confidential memo dated March 27, 1975, Monsignor Joseph Rawden, chancellor for the Los Angeles archdiocese, wrote that Ramos would start psychological care. The suggestion came from the Orange County district attorney's office, citing “a recent incident.” Because of his predilection for boys, Ramos would continue to visit this psychologist, Dr. Klaus D. Hoppe of the Hacker Clinic in Los Angeles, for the rest of his life.

Ramos left St. Joseph three years later for Immaculate Heart of Mary in Santa Ana. The whispers started again. In September 1979, Immaculate Heart teacher Lyda Brown wrote to Orange Bishop William Johnson about a “confidential matter of great concern” involving Ramos. Ramos, it seemed, kept pulling boys out of class to invite them up to his rectory room.

Church officials did nothing.

Two months later, another teacher wrote to Johnson about a “very grave school matter.” Ramos, it seemed, bought altar boys alcohol and took them to see inappropriate movies.

Church officials did nothing.

Then the parents of a boy named Frank approached the Orange diocese. They attended St. Joseph while Ramos still ministered there. When Ramos returned to St. Joseph around November 1979 to officiate over a wedding, he asked if the 12-year-old Frank could help. He also suggested Frank spend the night at Immaculate Heart. Frank's mom would later tell police she “reluctantly” agreed.

That night, Ramos plied Frank with a screwdriver—orange juice and vodka—and orally copulated the boy as he passed out. Frank told his parents the next day; they promptly visited Father George Breslin, their pastor at St. Joseph, Ramos' old boss. Two weeks later, Ramos left Immaculate Heart for a Massachusetts clinic operated by the St. Luke's Institute, the Roman Catholic Church's official rehabilitation program for pedophilic priests. A bewildered Immaculate Heart of Mary congregation heard on Christmas Eve that Ramos would go away for treatment for alcohol abuse, a problem Ramos blamed for his pedophilia.

Before Ramos left Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1979, he wrote a four-page letter to the teacher who turned him in. Ramos admitted to making “very serious mistakes” but lambasted the teacher for “unchristian roles played by [you and] your cohorts” in their “plot” to oust him.

“Through death we come to life,” Ramos wrote near the end:

When the old self dies, the new self comes alive. I have no problem admitting my alcoholism and its related faults to you, to others, and to God. I am on the road of healing and recovery—my old self is dying. I look forward to my new self being born again in body and in spirit to serve God and His people more faithfully and wholeheartedly than before.

“There must be a Good Friday of passion and suffering and death,” Ramos concluded, “before there can be an Easter Sunday of triumph, joy and new life.”

But even while Ramos was away to cure his illness, he continued to proposition boys. A letter from this time period, written on St. Luke's stationery, is addressed to a 13-year-old boy with the plea, “Can we get together and stay overnight?”

*   *   *

Ramos returned to duty a month after returning from St. Luke's in May 1980. Orange diocese officials assigned to Brea's St. Angela Merici. He continued to molest; church officials continued to move him. He next served at Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Habra in July 1983 but stayed there just a year before Bishop Johnson promoted Ramos to pastor at St. Anthony Claret in Anaheim in July 1984. A year later, church officials announced Ramos was leaving for Tijuana on missionary work.

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