U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Columbus earlier this week arrested a second Mexican national suspected of abducting a low-functioning Wheeling woman from outside her home and raping her at a Pennsylvania residence over several days in July.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of West Virginia, agents arrested Elmer Pina Ramirez on Monday after stopping a vehicle in which he and and others were traveling. He remained in law enforcement custody in Columbus on Thursday.
FBI documents allege Ramirez and Jesus Tapia took the 19-year-old woman from outside her home in Elm Grove on July 7 and transported her to a residence in Washington, Pa., where she was kept against her will and raped repeatedly for four days. She was returned to Wheeling and dropped off on a street near her home on July 11.
Tapia, 37, has been lodged in the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville since Aug. 31. FBI officials say he and Ramirez, 44, were residing in the country illegally.
When found after her return, the woman had a gum wrapper in her pocket with Tapia's name and a cell phone number written on it. Investigators analyzed phone records and most calls from that phone were placed from the Washington, Pa., area. On the night the woman was abducted, however, eight calls were made from an area surrounding the location in Wheeling where she was last seen.
That call pattern indicates the suspects were "circling the area looking for a victim," FBI documents state.
On the day she was returned, a call was made on that phone from Claysville, Pa., which is about halfway between Wheeling and Washington. Police found the woman about three hours after that call was placed.
"It is reasonable to believe that Jesus Tapia ... with the help of Elmer Pina Ramirez, abducted the victim and transported her to Pennsylvania for the purpose of having sex with her and holding her against her will," documents allege.
Tapia reportedly told investigators he was with Ramirez when they "met the victim in Wheeling" the day she was abducted and that Ramirez was driving the car. Tapia denied any wrongdoing, but admitted to having sex with the woman once. He also denied writing his name and phone number on the gum wrapper, saying one of his roommates must have done it.
When investigators asked Ramirez about a text message sent to him from an individual that said they were going to talk to the FBI, he requested an attorney and refused to answer any additional questions.
Ramirez and Tapia reportedly were working as roofers in Washington, Pa., although Ramirez has a car registered in his name at a Columbus address. He was stopped in that car Monday. The vehicle was "fully packed and the occupants were en route to Mexico," according to immigration and customs agents.
The victim told investigators the home she was kept at had very little furniture and mattresses on the floor.
A psychiatrist who interviewed the victim said the woman is below the 1 percentile level in her ability to function, meaning 99 percent of people of a similar age have a higher mental capacity than she has. Additionally, an FBI agent reported the woman looks to be about 15 or 16 years old, although she is nearly 20.