St. Croix Hit Man Botches Killing Of Star Witness Days Before Florida Fraud Trial
MIAMI — A St. Croix hit man shot a female dentist six times in the back before an upcoming Florida trial, but she miraculously survived the shooting and is now clinging to life in a medically-induced coma.
Ralph Benjamin, 39, of St. Croix and Hector Ledesma, 34, of St. Croix have been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Carmen Ramirez.
Police believe they know why Ramirez was targeted by St. Croix’s hired killer Benjamin.
Hialeah Police Major Hubert Ruiz said that Benjamin was flown in to the Miami area for the sole purpose of “hunting down Ramirez,” who was set to testify against Hector Ledesma’s brother, Jose Ledesma.
In 2015, Ramirez was the victim of identity theft. According to an Orlando police report, Jose Ledesma reportedly stole $40,000 from her and her dental office.
“Everything we’ve learned about this case is that it was an assassination attempt,” Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velazquez said.
Ledesma’s trial is set for this December and Ramirez is the star witness. If convicted he faces three to five years in prison.
Police note that neither Hector Ledesma nor Benjamin lives in South Florida. Ledesma lives in Orlando and Benjamin resides in St. Croix.
According to Ledesma’s arrest report, the day after the shooting each man purchased one-way tickets to the territory. They were taken into custody on November 21 at the Miami International Airport.
On Monday, November 18th, the day before the shooting, surveillance cameras captured Ledesma and Benjamin driving a BMW in front of Ramirez’s dental office at 820 East 41st Street. according to Ledesma’s arrest report.
Ledesma parked at 840 East 41st Street. Each man then got out, walked past Ramirez’s office, and went to a grocery store, according to police.
They reportedly remained inside for several minutes, purchased drinks then left the store and drove away.
According to police, surveillance video on Tuesday showed Benjamin being dropped by the same BMW and going into the grocery store.
When Ramirez arrived and began going up the stairs to her office, Benjamin came up from behind and shot at least 12 bullets at her, according to the arrest report. He then ran to the BMW, driven by Ledesma, and they sped off, according to the police.
Ramirez was struck six times, including in her face, neck, and chest. She was taken to the Ryder Trauma Center where she’s currently in a medically induced coma and is listed is extremely critical condition.
A police report says she had a bullet lodged next to her heart.
“Twelve shots were fired,” said Ruiz. “Six of them struck the victim. The family has been notified about the arrests and they are focused on the recovery. We have learned the victim was a key witness in Orlando and the victim was scammed out of $40,000 and was scheduled to testify and that could lead to a five year prison term.”
Ruiz said Benjamin has an open criminal case from August 29 on St. Croix involving possession of a firearm by a felon.
Hector Ledesma had been recently released from the Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility in St. Croix after serving 15 years for child rape.