by Jeremy Harris (KUTV) Monday, October 19th 2020
Even as a 7-year-old girl, Jessica Ramirez knew her mother was in danger.
On that night in October 1998, Jessica says her father had become enraged and stormed out of the house with her mother.
“I remember having a bad feeling just because there was a lot of stuff that led up to it. We watched our dad do a lot of bad things,” Jessica said.
After that night, Jessica and her three young siblings were left without parents and without answers about what really happened in the desert south of their home in Wendover, Utah.
Jessica is now 29 — the same age her mother was when she was killed — and there is a new effort from detectives to locate and question the only suspect in the case: Jessica’s father, Jose Ramirez.
Jose and his wife Mireslaba lived with their three children on Pequops Street in Wendover in the late 90s. Like most people in their community, the couple worked at casinos on the other side of the state line in West Wendover, Nevada.
Jessica remembers her mother always making sure the kids were taken care of and dressed well.
”She was just a really good mom,” Jessica said.
But things began to spiral out of control in mid-October 1998. Jessica says her father became violent, accusing his wife of infidelity.
“My dad held a guy hostage at our house and put a gun against his head in front of me and my siblings,” Jessica said.
On Oct. 21, 1998, Jessica saw her parents for the last time.
“When she never came back, we knew what happened,” she said.
Police immediately suspected Jose was involved in Mireslaba’s disappearance, but he, too, had vanished.
Within a few days, prosecutors charged Jose with kidnapping and put out a warrant for his arrest, but police believe he likely fled to Mexico.
After he disappeared, Jose reportedly sent a letter to his family in Wendover:
That day I asked her for us to leave to another place where nobody knows us and to have our lives far from people that know us. I’ve heard rumors that I killed her, that I buried her, that I put her in the water or that I have her held captive, but you guys shouldn’t believe any of that.
While detectives tried to track down Jose, a search and rescue team scoured the remote area near Gold Hill in western Tooele County and located a pair of Mireslaba’s earrings. That would be perhaps the only clue for the next 12 years.
As the case of Mireslaba’s disappearance went cold, Jessica and her siblings lived with their grandparents and then eventually settled with a foster family. They grew up not knowing what had transpired between their mom and dad in the desert.
In June 2010, a worker at a potash mine outside Wendover was moving dirt and uncovered a body. It took several months, but the medical examiner’s office confirmed the remains were those of Mireslaba.
Her body was found 27 miles north of where her earrings were located by the search and rescue team in 1998. Investigators don’t think there’s any way Mireslaba could have made the journey on foot by herself.
“It wasn’t an accident, she didn’t just take off running,” Jessica said. “I want him to know that she was somebody, she did matter, she was left out there like she was garbage.”
Detectives have never been able to question Jose Ramirez about his involvement in Mireslaba’s death.
“He’s holding a lot of information that nobody has, that nobody else knows about. Jose owes an explanation to authorities, and the kids deserve an explanation of why they were abandoned,” Wendover City’s public safety director Ken Quirk told 2News.
Quirk says many people in Wendover still remember Mireslaba.
“She was one of our local girls,” Quirk said.