CLEARFIELD — Ten years ago this week, 18-year-old Cesar Ramirez was shot and killed while driving on I-15 in Salt Lake City.
Inside his green Jeep Cherokee that now sits as evidence in a storage warehouse at the Freeport Center, it's as if time has stood still. The vehicle looks just as it did a decade ago when Ramirez was killed while sitting in the driver's seat.
His CDs still hang from the visor. Random paperwork, such as the vehicle registration, sits on the passenger seat. Old ads clipped out of newspapers lay in the center console. Shards of glass cover the floor mats from both the front and rear passenger windows on the driver's side that were shot out. Even the coverall presumably used by a first responder or a crime scene technician collecting DNA remains on the driver's seat.
On Tuesday, the State Bureau of Investigation allowed the media to photograph Ramirez's car as well as the vehicle his alleged shooters were driving, while announcing a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of those involved.
"We're just hoping now that someone will give us information they maybe didn't want to give us before. We're just trying to do anything we can to solve the case completely," said State Bureau of Investigation detective Scott Nesbitt.
On Jan. 9, 2009, Ramirez and his passenger, his brother, got into a verbal altercation with people inside another car at the intersection of 900 South and West Temple. It was a chance meeting between rival gang members, Nesbitt said.
"It started with an altercation on the west side of Salt Lake City earlier. Some gang signs were flashed, a beer bottle was thrown. Then the victims drove up onto the freeway with the suspects following them," he said. "Just based on the circumstances, we believe that it was a just a chance encounter. They saw each other wearing opposite colors."
Fifteen minutes later, on the I-15 southbound collector near 2100 South, during rush hour traffic about 5:30 p.m., a Nissan Maxima with three people inside pulled up next to Ramirez's Jeep on the driver's side, and an unknown number of people shot at the Cherokee. Ramirez managed to pull over after being struck and was taken to a local hospital where he later died.
Initially, those involved told investigators it was a case of road rage. But law enforcers later determined the shooting was the result of a gang dispute.Comment on this story
Matthew James Day, 33, of West Point, the driver of the Nissan, was later arrested and convicted of manslaughter, a second-degree felony. Based on minimum-mandatory sentencing guidelines then, Day was sentenced to at least two and up to 20 years at the Utah State Prison. He is currently being housed in the Cache County Jail, according to prison records.
Nesbitt said investigators don't know if Day fired any shots. But based on his statements, he is believed to be the driver.
Two other people were believed to be in the Maxima with him that day. Today, a decade later, Nesbitt said Day still won't give up the names of his associates.
Now, the state is hoping someone else who was afraid to speak before will come forward and talk.
Anyone with information on the case can call the State Bureau of Investigation at 801-965-4747.