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Karlyn Ramirez, a young Army soldier with top secret security clearance, was found dead in her Maryland townhome with her baby lying next to her.
“She was laying on the floor, near the crib. Her pants and her underwear had been removed,” Anne Arundel County Police Detective Kelly Harding told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered,” airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
The 24-year-old had been shot three times. At first, it looked like her young daughter had been killed too, but patrol officers soon discovered the 4-month-old baby had simply been sleeping next to her slain mother.
Karlyn’s job meant she was often holding government secrets, but the savage nature of the crime led investigators to believe her death was personal. However, those who were closest to the solider all seemingly had airtight alibis.
Karlyn grew up in Del Rio, Texas, a small community anchored by the Laughlin Air Force Base.
“Karlyn, when she was young, she was real calm and quiet,” her mother, Susan Ramirez, recalled. “Karlyn loved to sing. She would sing all the time.”
Her friends described Karlyn as someone who was vibrant, happy, and always dancing, even if it was in the middle of a Wal-Mart parking lot. But she could have a serious side, and she surprised her family when at the age of 22 she enlisted in the U.S. Army and became an information technology specialist.
She was stationed in South Korea, where she met Maliek Kearney, a handsome and confident sergeant.
“They worked out together and they ran. They were very competitive,” her mom said.
The couple soon got engaged and found out they were expecting a baby.
“That was like one of her dreams, that she always wanted to have her own child,” one of her friends told “Dateline” reporter Andrea Canning.
The Army transferred Karlyn to Fort Meade, Maryland, where she worked in top secret intelligence. Kearney was headed back to the United States too, but he was assigned to Fort Jackson in South Carolina, about 500 miles away.
As the couple navigated the challenges of a long-distance relationship, Karlyn moved into a townhouse with another single mom, Marissa, and together they created a home.
“She was happy. It looked like she found her purpose in life,” Marissa said.
Three months after the baby was born, Karlyn and Kearney got married, but were still stationed states apart. Karlyn continued to juggle her responsibilities at home and work until Tuesday Aug. 25, 2015 — when Susan struggled to get a hold of her daughter.
“I spoke with Karlyn every day, sometimes twice a day,” her mother said.
After leaving several unreturned messages, Susan reached Karlyn’s commanding officer at his home and asked that he send someone to check on her daughter. But just as she was hanging up the phone, she looked out to see three uniformed officers approaching her front door.
“I knew,” she said. “You don’t ever want to have to see that and I yelled my husband’s name and I just dropped to my knees and I said, ‘Something happened to Karlyn.’”
Karlyn was dead.
Harding told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered” her body was discovered when a maintenance worker was walking around the townhouse complex and saw a dog walking into an open back door. He called 911 and patrol officers soon made the grisly discovery.
Investigators uncovered a bullet in the floor and determined that Karlyn had likely been killed with a .357 Magum or 38 Special.
Detectives quickly turned their attention to Kearney after learning that Karlyn had been planning to divorce her new husband, but Kearney denied having anything to do with his wife’s death.
“She was the love of my life,” he said in an interrogation tape as he cried and wiped his hands on his shorts.
Kearney also had a seemingly airtight alibi. At the time of the killing, he said he had been 500 miles away in South Carolina and activity on his Netflix account and cell phone backed up his story.
Investigators also learned that Karlyn had a brief relationship with another solider before she got married, but Kearney insisted he had forgiven her.
Kearney volunteered his bank records, gave police his DNA, and gave permission for them to search his apartment and car.
“Right away we talked to neighbors in his apartment building. They said that his car never left,” Harding revealed.
Karlyn’s fling at work had also been cooperative, providing his phone to investigators which confirmed he hadn’t been at her town home when she was killed.
It seemed that the case was at a standstill until investigators got back data from Kearney’s phone — and the data from everyone that he had contacted through the phone.
They discovered he had numerous calls and texts with a woman named Delores Delgado, a former soldier living in Florida.
After analyzing her phone records, they determined that Delgado had been in South Carolina at Kearney’s apartment complex at the time of Karlyn’s murder.
Investigators headed to Florida and confronted Delgado, who admitted to being at Kearney’s apartment, However, she said she and Kearney at both been at the apartment all night long.
“She said that they had been intimate for several years,” Harding explained.
Investigators now realized Kearney had lied about his activities the night of the murder and his claim that he had been faithful to Karlyn.
Delgado had also insisted that she knew almost nothing about firearms, but investigators discovered evidence she had talked about guns on social media and found a gun shop near her home that showed she had recently purchased a .357 revolver.
Investigators also found text messages between Kearney and Delgado that had mysteriously been wiped off his phone, but remained on hers. The messages revealed the couple had been communicating about her gas mileage on the night Karlyn died and had also mentioned gas cans.
Delgado’s bank records showed she had purchased two gas cans at a Florida Home Depot not long before the murder.
The evidence was compelling. Investigators believed that on the night of the killing, Kearney had traveled to Maryland to kill his wife using Delgado’s car. He used the two gas tanks so that he wouldn’t have to make any stops along the way.
Delgado had stayed behind at his apartment with his phone, establishing his alibi and using his Netflix account.
“He had a lot of time along the way to say, ‘Never mind. You know what, what am I doing? This is crazy.’ Driving eight hours by yourself with your own thoughts in the car, you have a lot of time to change your mind. He was determined,” Harding told Canning.
Delgado and Kearney were arrested 13 months after Karlyn’s death.
“I didn’t know anything about her,” Susan said of Kearney’s surprising accomplice. “She was no one. No one to me.”
After the federal arrests, Harding got the final piece of the puzzle investigators needed when an ex-boyfriend of Delgado’s called her and reported that he had helped Delgado dispose of a gun off a pier in Florida.
“He called me and said ‘Hey, one night I was hanging out with Delores and we got rid of a gun’ and he said, ‘I think that was your murder weapon,’” Harding recalled.
Although the pieces of the dismantled gun were badly damaged by the water, an FBI firearms expert was able to restore the serial number on the gun and match it to the gun Delgado had purchased.
With the evidence mounting against her, Delgado agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against Kearney.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Warwick told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered” they believe Kearney killed his wife because she was planning to leave him.
“He was used to getting what he wanted,” Warwick said. “Relationships could end with Maliek Kearney, but they had to end on his terms.”
Kearney’s defense team tried to point the finger back at Delgado, but a jury would end up siding with prosecutors and Kearney was convicted and sentenced to life in prison plus ten years.
Delgado received 17 years for her role in the crime.
Karlyn’s daughter is now being raised in Texas by her mother.
“We are, at this point, the constant in her life,” Susan said. “We want her to feel protected, loved, everything that I know her mom would have given her.”
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