A man accused of trying to sacrifice his 8-year-old son at Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego must stand trial on attempted murder and child abuse charges, a judge ruled Monday.
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Joseph Adalberto Ramirez, 31, faces up to 13 years in state prison if convicted.
Deputy District Attorney Scott Pirrello previously told a judge that the defendant took his family to the cemetery around 4:30 p.m. on April 28 to visit his uncle's grave. He was accompanied by his son, Daniel, his two daughters -- ages 3 and 18 months -- and their mother, the prosecutor said.
Eyewitness Jaymisha Pires testified during a preliminary hearing Monday that she and a friend were flagged down near the entrance to the cemetery by the children's mother, Ariana Paredes, who was screaming, "Help, he's hurting my kids."
Pires said the defendant was holding his children in a tight bearhug near the grave site as she tried to get him to let them go.
"I said it wasn't right what he was doing," Pires testified.
"He said, 'They're my kids. They're going to Jesus,'" the witness testified.
Pires said she got the 18-month-old away from Ramirez and the 3-year-old daughter broke away, leaving the defendant with Daniel, who was saying, "Daddy, please don't hurt me."
Paredes, who said she had been with Ramirez for 12 years, testified that he started acting strangely after being baptized at a Christian church.
Paredes said Ramirez met with a Catholic priest, who said "he's got something inside of him" and referred him to a mental health specialist.
Two days before the cemetery incident, Ramirez told Paredes that he was "very scared" and "something evil was out to get him," she testified.
The next day, Paredes said the family stayed at a friend's home because Ramirez thought a woman who visited his residence was evil. That night, Ramirez stayed up all night reading the Bible, Paredes said.
"He said, 'People are going to think I'm crazy,'" she testified.
The morning of the incident, Ramirez first said he wanted to visit his grandfather in a convalescent home, then said he needed to visit his uncle's grave at Mount Hope Cemetery, according to Paredes.
Once at the cemetery, Ramirez had the family drink sangria and eat energy bars, calling it "the Last Supper," according to Paredes.
"I asked, 'Is something bad going to happen?'" Paredes said. "He said, 'Yeah.'"
Paredes said she tried to leave, but Ramirez grabbed the children from the car and said: "These are my kids."
Once Daniel got away from Ramirez, Paredes saw the blood on the child's arms and asked him, "Oh my God, did he cut you?" she testified.
A religious candle that Ramirez had brought to the grave site had broken on the tombstone earlier, and Paredes said she had tried to dispose of it, but the defendant said he would take care of it.
After he was arrested, witnesses said Ramirez said something about his grandmother being evil, according to court testimony.
San Diego police Detective Jessie Holt said Ramirez first denied involvement in the incident, but days later -- in a second interview -- admitted cutting his son's arms with the piece of glass. The defendant also said he was not mentally ill and was not on drugs when he hurt his son and cut his own arms, Holt testified.
The defendant -- who's being held on $2 million bail -- will be back in court June 15 for arraignment.
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