Ramiro Gonzales

Posted on June 25, 2024 By

by Sarah Terzo (published June 25, 2024)


Nearly twenty years ago, Ramiro Gonzales was convicted of the murder of Bridget Townsend and sentenced to die. His execution is set for June 26, 2024.

A Childhood Full of Abuse, Loss, and Suffering

Ramiro is an abortion survivor. His father abandoned his sixteen-year-old mother when she became pregnant. He isn’t even listed on Ramiro’s birth certificate. Ramiro didn’t meet his father until he was nineteen.

Ramiro’s teen mother suffered from addiction. She attempted to abort Ramiro through drugs. She abandoned Ramiro at birth, and he was raised by his grandparents who, according to psychologist Dr. Kate Porterfield, “had tremendous problems, emotionally and mentally.”

Ramiro’s grandfather was an alcoholic, and his grandmother worked very long hours for $12 an hour. He lived on a desolate ranch with his extended family, and they were desperately poor.

Ramiro’s mother, along with her four sisters, were sexually abused from a young age by members of the family. According to Dr. Porterfield:

All of these young women grew up to attempt suicide, to have substance abuse problems of their own, to have trouble with violence. So, Ramiro as a small boy is put in a home that has already created generations of trauma.

Although Ramiro’s mother abandoned him, she later married and had two children she raised. When her family visited the ranch, Ramiro’s stepfather would beat him.

Far more damaging, however, was the sexual abuse that was rampant in the family.

Ramiro was sexually abused by multiple male relatives. One abuser, in particular, sexually assaulted him for many years. He was also sexually abused by a female cousin who babysat him.

According to Dr. Porterfield:

Ramiro Gonzalez suffered extraordinary trauma over the course of his life, events that are some of the most toxically stressful that a child can experience . . .

The toxicity of sexual abuse really cannot be overstated. This was a young boy who was actually abused by multiple perpetrators across many years of his childhood . . .

When Ramiro was in elementary school, one of his uncles married a woman named Loretta. She would ask Ramiro questions like, “Why are you always by yourself? Where are you going? Why are you home so late?”

Loretto was the first person in Ramiro’s life ever to ask him questions like this, or to take any interest in how he was doing. With a positive influence in his life, Romero started completing his homework and doing better at school.

But tragedy struck. When Ramiro was fifteen, Loretta was killed by a drunk driver.

Ramiro began using drugs to cope with his grief and soon became a full-blown addict. He dropped out of school at sixteen and attempted suicide at seventeen. He had several other close calls with suicide, including once when he climbed up a bridge and prepared to jump and the police were called.

But he never got any psychological help or counseling.

Notably, at Ramiro’s trial, the prosecution painted his childhood as idyllic, claiming that he grew up on “a beautiful, gorgeous ranch” where he “got privileges and opportunities that a lot of other kids don’t have.”

Ramiro’s court-appointed attorneys never mentioned the abuse Ramiro suffered, leaving the jury thinking Ramiro’s childhood was happy and privileged. This false picture influenced the sentence.

Ramiro himself doesn’t use his childhood trauma as an excuse to evade responsibility for his crime. He says:

Everything that happened in my past had some influence, [but] responsibility means you know what, that doesn’t matter because I have to take sole responsibility for what I did.

Ramiro’s Crimes

To support his drug addiction, Ramiro stole and forged checks. When he tried to steal from his drug dealer, he was caught by Bridget Townsend, the dealer’s girlfriend. To cover-up the theft, he murdered Townsend.

Eight months later and under the influence of drugs, Ramiro kidnapped a woman and raped her. He was arrested. Overcome with remorse, Ramiro also confessed to killing Townsend. The Townsend case had gone cold. It may have never been solved otherwise.

In Ramiro’s murder trial, prosecutors used the testimony of a criminal who claimed he knew Ramiro to paint him as a sociopath. Later, the witness recanted. But the damage was done. The state’s expert had used this false testimony to depict Ramiro as a monster and a danger to the public.

Today, however, the same expert says that Ramiro “is now a significantly different person both mentally and emotionally.” He now supports clemency.

Ramiro’s Life in Prison

Ramiro says:

I gave my life to Christ on March 2, 2006. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew that I had to follow God, I just knew that I had to give my life to God. And that I needed him to help me get through with this . . . this life I was living.

Ramiro ordered theology books, visited with pastors on death row, corresponded with Christian clergy, and studied the Bible.

He became committed to repentance, faith, and nonviolence, even becoming a vegetarian. His favorite Bible verse is Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Ramiro Gonzales

Terry Solley is the Executive Director of Texas Prison Outreach. He set up a faith-based program on death row in 2021. From the very beginning, Ramiro was deeply involved.

According to Solley:

There’s men who pretend that they have remorse for the legal system. And then there’s men who truly are remorseful for the things that they’ve done in their life . . . [H]e’s really remorseful for what he did . . . He’s no longer the person he used to be. He’s found his purpose in life, and his purpose is to help other men become better men.

Solley says Ramiro has done much to encourage other prisoners and promote the Christian ministry. Partly because of Ramiro’s efforts, he says, the whole atmosphere on death row has changed:

[Ramiro] can’t sing worth a lick. But whenever we would start our program and everything he would even sing, just to get the other guys to sing . . . And it was contagious. Because now they’re singing all day long, you can’t shut them up. Now they have their own church services. They mentor and counsel each other. And [Ramiro] was a big part of that.

According to Ramiro:

There are guys who still struggle with life and death, especially being on death row. They want to know . . . what Christianity says about life after death. They want to know if God is real, I think I think the greatest part is being able to speak into their lives and minister to the point where they know who they are so that they can actually rise up. Discover the potential, the purpose, the meaning for their lives.

Ramiro has also done quite a bit to support people who aren’t inmates. Sully says Ramiro comforted him when the emotional impact of his ministry became overwhelming:

I walked through 16 executions, and I was with the men all the way up until they took them out for their last visit. And that was difficult, you know, and it affects you . . . I really didn’t have anybody to talk to about because nobody could understand I would go and talk to RG, and he would be able to just comfort me . . . And that’s what I needed in my life.

A female prison guard recalled that when her mother died, Ramiro must have found out about it by overhearing conversations between the guards. Ramiro expressed his sorrow and told her that he was praying for her. “[T]hat’s who he is,” she says.

Another of Ramiro’s advocates is Clinton Young, a death row exoneree whose wrongful conviction was overturned in 2021.

Young wasn’t friends with Ramiro when they were both in prison, but he appeared in a video in support of him. Young said:

I’m not gonna drive for five hours to come speak for everybody . . . because I don’t know that everybody’s changed… But I recognize the changes in the man that [Ramiro] became . . . He’s a living example.

Ramiro is now a peer coordinator for the prison ministry. He spends much of his time reading and studying theology. He writes devotionals, religious poetry, and sermons, which he shares with his fellow prisoners.

Ramiro is an artist who makes gifts for people he knows. For example, he drew portraits of his attorney’s dog for him, and painted a picture of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the son of a member of his legal team.

But Ramiro hasn’t forgotten the reason he’s on death row. He remembers his crime every day. He says:

Remorse means taking responsibility, knowing what you did, knowing how it affected everybody around you. And not just everybody, but specifically the family of Bridget Townsend. And even more specific, the mother, and I just want her to know how sorry I really am.

I took everything that was valuable from a mother as just because of my stupidity because of what I did, because my actions, and you can’t give that back . . .  Every day, it’s a continual task, to do everything that I can to feel that responsibility for the life that I took.

Some people who consider themselves friends of Ramiro have been trying to get his death sentence changed to life in prison. It’s true that Ramiro’s crimes were heinous. No one, including Ramiro himself, says he should be set free. If he isn’t executed, he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Ironically, many who would have happily volunteered to drive Ramiro’s teenage mother to an abortion facility are now trying to save Ramiro’s life. And many who would have protected Ramiro in the womb are now calling for his execution.

Ramiro is the same person now as he was when he was an innocent preborn baby threatened with abortion. If you would have supported protecting him then, please consider protecting him now.




For some of our other posts on the death penalty, see: 

Open Letter to Governor Stitt: the Pro-life Case against the Death Penalty

Why Conservatives Should Oppose the Death Penalty

The Death Penalty and Abortion: The Conservative/Liberal Straitjacket 

Is the Death Penalty Unethical?

Racism and the Death Penalty

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