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Parole hearing slated in Rapid City manslaughter case

RAPID CITY (AP) — A man serving a life sentence for the 1994 killing of his pregnant girlfriend is slated to have his first parole hearing on Tuesday.

Joaquin Jack Ramos pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for the 1994 shooting of Debbie Martines, 27, in Rapid Valley.

The Rapid City Journal reported former Gov. Mike Rounds, in his final term in 2010, commuted Ramos’ sentence to 150 years, making Ramos eligible for parole beginning this month.

However, state corrections officials had not reached the victim’s family, and so the recommendation was made without input from those who felt Ramos should remain in prison and serve out his life sentence behind bars.

State law prohibits the governor from reversing his clemency ruling, so instead he has recommended parole be denied for Ramos.

Rounds has written a letter to the Board of Pardons and Paroles explaining that the commutation never would have been issued if he knew about the victim’s family’s opposition.

Rounds said he has been assured his letter always will be attached to Ramos’ file when it comes before the board.

“It would be my wish that the Board of Pardons and Paroles would always recognize that the pardon should not have been issued,” Rounds told the media.

Ramos initially was accused of murder, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter when he agreed to plead guilty. South Dakota law allows a sentence of up to life in prison for first-degree manslaughter.

Authorities said Ramos and a co-worker had several drinks at a bar after work on the day of the slaying. Ramos became enraged when he got home and learned Martines had gone to the bar to get him. The shooting occurred shortly after Martines returned home.

Ramos said the gun went off accidentally when he hit Martines with it.

Martines, who was four months pregnant, was shot in the neck.

Maritnes’ daughter, Jackie McClain, said she will do her best to try to keep Ramos in prison. McClain will address the parole board with Ramos present.

McClain, now the mother of two, said her grandparents went along with a plea agreement to spare her and her two brothers the agony of a trial.

Even if his parole is denied, it won’t be the last time McClain must relive her mother’s death. Due to the sentence change by Rounds, Ramos’ victims could have to present testimony every eight months to keep him in prison.

“I so want this to be over,” McClain said.