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A 31-year-old woman in Pennsylvania will be spending the rest of her life behind bars for the prolonged torture and killing of her 3-year-old stepdaughter three years ago. Common Pleas Judge Bruce Beemer on Wednesday ordered Laura Michelle Ramriez to serve a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility for parole plus an additional 37 to 74 years for the execrable 2020 slaying of young Bella Seachrist, authorities announced.
Ramriez was found guilty of first-degree murder (life without parole), two counts of aggravated assault (5 to 10 years each), and one count each of endangering the welfare of a child (5 to 10 years), unlawful restraint (2 to 4 years), and conspiracy to commit homicide (20 to 40 years). Judge Beemer ordered the sentences to be served consecutively, meaning one after another.
While Ramriez was considered the mastermind of the horrific abuse, Bella’s father, 32-year-old Jose Eduardo Salazar-Ortiz, in May was convicted on one count each of third-degree murder, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, and conspiracy to commit homicide in his daughter’s death. He was subsequently sentenced to 33 to 66 years in prison.
Ramriez’s 23-year-old sister, Alexis Herrera, also allegedly took part in abusing Bella and is currently scheduled to begin trial in January, records show.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, authorities said that prior to her death, Bella was “tortured” and “looked like a child out of a concentration camp.”
According to a press release from the Allegheny County Police Department, officers on the afternoon of June 9, 2020, responded to an emergency call at a residence located on Tenth Street regarding a report that a 3-year-old child — later identified as Bella — was “unresponsive” in a bathtub.
“When officers and paramedics arrived, they found the child appearing to be badly bruised and malnourished. Officers and medics performed life saving measures and transported the child to an area hospital where the child was pronounced deceased,” the release stated.
Investigators determined that the victim “suffered from prolonged physical and mental abuse” and that Salazar-Ortiz, Ramriez, and Herrera were all to blame.
According to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the jury box during Ramriez’s sentencing hearing was filled with the first responders who first found Bella. She was emaciated to the point where her bones were visible through her skin and so malnourished that her hair was patchy and falling out. Bella was about to turn 4 years old and weighed less than 30 pounds.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever really seen a level of malice not only in deed done here, but also in the words of the defendant on many, many occasions,” Judge Beemer reportedly said, referencing the numerous text messages Ramriez sent about Bella. In many of those messages she reportedly referred to the child as an “animal” and a “b—-” and said that she “hated her with a passion.”
The judge also reportedly castigated Ramriez for the abhorrent abuse Bella suffered at her hands, which typically included being sexually abused, starved, beaten, tied up, gagged, and stuffed in small dark locked closets.
“There was no other possible result, based on what occurred day after day, week after week, month after month, but for her to die in one of the most horrific ways possible,” Judge Beemer reportedly said. “The pain, the hunger — I cannot envision a worse fate for that child than the one she suffered at your hands in that house in Oakmont.”
Matt Naham contributed to this report.
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