SAN DIEGO — A man accused of trying to sacrifice his 8-year-old son at Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego changed his plea Friday to not guilty by reason of insanity.
Joseph Adalberto Ramirez, 31, was charged in May with premeditated attempted murder and felony child abuse.
Judge Eugenia Eyherabide ordered Ramirez to be examined by a court- appointed psychiatrist and psychologist.
Last week another judge ruled that the defendant was mentally competent to stand trial, meaning he could understand the criminal proceedings and assist in his defense.
According to Deputy District Attorney Scott Pirrello, 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, Pirrello said.
A witness, Jaymisha Pires, testified 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 Ramirez was holding his children in a tight bear hug near the grave site as she tried to get him to let them go.
“He said, `They’re my kids. They’re going to Jesus,”’ the witness testified.
Paredes testified that Ramirez started acting strangely after being baptized at a Christian church.
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, 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.
After he was arrested, witnesses said Ramirez said something about his grandmother being evil, according to court testimony.
The prosecutor said that depending on what the mental health evaluations find, jurors might have to determine whether the defendant was sane at the time the alleged crimes were committed. The judge scheduled a readiness conference for Feb. 1 and rescheduled trial for May 1.
Ramirez also faces allegations that he used a deadly weapon — broken glass — against the children and caused great bodily injury.
He faces 13 years to life if convicted, according to Pirrello.