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An elderly woman looking forward to her 100th birthday had her life cruelly taken from her in a crime that shocked Wadsworth, Ohio in the spring of 2018.
On the morning of April 9, officers with the Wadsworth Police Department received a call from the family of Margaret Douglas, a 98-year-old woman who lived alone and hadn’t been heard from in a number of days. Police traveled to her home to perform a wellness check — and when they failed to find her, they launched a preliminary search.
Douglas' nephew Howard Leasure and his wife, Cindy, quickly joined, meeting police at Douglas' home that evening to look for any clues that she may have left of her own volition. It was when Leasure went to check his aunt’s closet that he made a horrifying discovery: What he thought were just Douglas' shoes on the floor underneath a pile of clothing turned out to be Margaret Douglas herself, dead.
“I pretty much lost it. Something I’ll never forget, to find her like that,” Leasure told “An Unexpected Killer,” airing Fridays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
The way Douglas was found, with her clothing disheveled and torn in some places, suggested that she had been sexually assaulted, while trauma on her neck suggested she’d been strangled. There were contusions and bruising to her head and face, and it was also clear she had been left there for a number of days.
Police suspected a burglary because Douglas' wallet was missing, but as they searched the property, the only clue they found was a plastic glove that had been discarded near the back of the house.
Douglas, who lived alone following the death of her husband, was known for her independence and her love of life. Everyone in her neighborhood knew her and looked out for her, which made the question of who would kill her, and in such a heinous way, an even harder one to answer.
After interviewing the family, police decided to speak with a man named David, who looked after Douglas and would routinely come to her home to help out with chores. Initially, they were unable to reach him, but they soon found him hanging around outside Douglas' house during the investigation. When confronted, he said that he was concerned because he used to be Douglas' neighbor and that he wanted to know what was going on. However, he knew specific details of the murder, which made investigators suspicious.
That suspicion only grew when they heard David had expressed concerns to others that his fingerprints would likely be found in Douglas' house.
Police brought David in for questioning. He described stopping by Douglas' house days before she was found and being unable to find her, which concerned police. However, he agreed to have his DNA tested to see if it was a match to the DNA found on the glove outside of Douglas' home. Testing showed that it was not a match. He was also able to explain his whereabouts and addressed every concern that police had, proving their initial suspicion was merely a misunderstanding.
“He just really cared about Margaret and really had concern that he would have an answer as to what happened,” Dawn Schismenos, a sergeant with the Wadsworth Police Department, told producers.
As the investigation continued, the autopsy report came in, which showed no signs Douglas had been sexually assaulted, despite the fact that her underwear had been torn. Determined to find answers, police began to take a closer look at smaller crimes in the area and started investigating reports that a trailer at a construction site had been broken into. Whoever had done it had left their phone behind and police were able to track that phone to a young man named Zachary.
When they brought him in for questioning, he quickly revealed that a friend of his named Gavon Ramsay was not only involved in the trailer break-in, but also a string of petty crimes they’d committed before then. He insisted they had all been Ramsey's idea.
Ramsay was brought in for questioning accompanied by his mother, as he was underage. Seated in front of police, Ramsay began to admit to a number of things, like breaking into cars and stealing small items. He then, after asking his mother to leave the room, admitted to a more serious crime: recently car-jacking a man whom he’d met on a dating website. Still, when asked about Douglas' murder, Ramsay denied it, but police had a gut feeling that he was hiding something.
Police looked through Ramsay's phone and what they found was the biggest shock of all: There were photos and videos of Douglas that were taken in her own home but without her knowledge. Ramsay had secretly gotten into the house and recorded her.
Fearing that he may try to flee, police quickly took Ramsay into custody. Back in the interview room, he began his confession. He said that he’d snuck into Douglas' house for the adrenaline rush and, once inside, had begun recording her while she slept. Then, when she woke up, he forced her onto the ground and strangled her before he realized what he was doing.
What he did next, however, he did not want to discuss, but investigators had evidence of the disturbing abuse to Douglas' body.
“He degraded her body … videotaping and taking pictures. He’d actually been in there with her for a while,” Matt Markley, a detective with the Wadsworth Police Department, told producers.
He then moved her into the closet and fled the scene back to his home — which was in the same neighborhood as Douglas' house. It was then police realized Ramsay likely knew Douglas and had chosen her specifically as his potential victim.
Police arrested Gavon Ramsay for murder. When they searched his house, they found all the evidence they needed: a glove matching the kind that was recovered from the scene, as well as Douglas' missing wallet. They also found Ramsay's journal; in it he’d written about serial killers and had described his fantasies involving rape and murder.
“After reading those, there was no doubt in my mind that Gavon would kill again if he had the opportunity,” Schismenos said. “This is something he enjoys, that he finds pleasure in.”
Ramsay was charged with murder along with other lesser offenses and stood trial as an adult. During the trial, Ramsay's mother claimed that he’d been receiving counseling for years and that it was a doctor’s decision to prescribe him Zoloft that had changed him drastically and for the worse, according to the Times Reporter of Ohio.
Her testimony was not enough. At the age of 17, Gavon Ramsay was found guilty of all charges and received the harshest penalty possible: life in prison without parole.
Still, Margaret Douglas' family was left to mourn a beautiful soul.“She was a wonderful woman,” Leasure said. “A great woman.”
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