Butler Forced Woman To Rob Back Strapped With Fake Dynamite
2:47 AM, Feb 28, 2003
One of three men convicted of kidnapping a bank manager and forcing her to rob her own branch in Vista was sentenced Friday to three consecutive life terms.
Christopher Butler, 27, (pictured, left) will have to serve more than 50 years before he becomes eligible for parole, prosecutor Thomas Manning said after the hearing at the Vista Courthouse.
Butler was convicted of three counts of kidnapping for robbery, robbery in concert and unrelated robberies of a Denny's restaurant and Blockbuster Video store.
Co-defendants Robert Ortiz and Christopher Huggins were convicted last year, but are asking for new trials.
Consecutive life terms were the "only appropriate sentence" for Butler, who "is not showing one ounce of remorse," Judge Joan Weber said.
The bank manager, known then as Michelle Ramskill-Estey, 37, was playing a video game with her 7-year-old daughter when the men broke into their home on Nov. 22, 2000.
The woman and her daughter were bound with duct tape, and what turned out to be fake dynamite was strapped to their backs. A female roommate suffered a similar misfortune when she returned home.
Ramskill-Estey was forced to go into her bank the next morning and remove $360,000, knowing that her daughter was at home in a closet with what both believed was real dynamite.
Attorneys for the defendants claimed Ramskill-Estey knew Butler and arranged the scheme to solve her financial troubles. Weber called such claims "a pack of lies."
Now known as Michelle Renee, (pictured, right) she said that she was forced to move out of state until the trial began because of the defendant's alleged gang affiliations.
Butler and Huggins were arrested in Oceanside about two weeks after the incident. Ortiz was arrested the following February in Milwaukee after he was profiled on TV's "America's Most Wanted."
"You have replaced innocence with terror, Mr. Butler. I will never see, never hold, and never have a single moment with that little girl that I knew before your violent attack," Renee said to Butler shortly before his sentence was handed down.
Renee called the sentence "fair and just."
She also said she is starting a foundation to help victims of workplace crimes.
Her daughter, now 9, has been undergoing therapy because of her ordeal, she said.