BUTLER, Pa. (KDKA) — The Butler County man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend because he thought she was cheating, setting her body on fire and then dumping her remains in the woods will stand trial.
Ishemer Ramsey, 21, is accused of shooting Melissa Barto in his car back in June because authorities say he thought he was cheating on him.
Tuesday’s preliminary hearing was held under tight security as the Barto and Ramsey families walked into the courtroom.
A state police investigator was the only witness. He reviewed the evidence from the day Barto became a missing person when she failed to show up at her daughter’s kindergarten graduation.
He said they found a blood sample and a shell casing in the car where they believe Ramsey shot Barto three times in the head.
Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger said it’s too early to say whether he’ll seek the death penalty in the case.
“We’re going to look at the factors to see if we can pursue that or not,” he said. “We haven’t made a decision yet.”
“Quite frankly, the trooper that testified didn’t really testify from any personal knowledge,” said defense attorney Blaine Jones. “His testimony was littered with ‘this person told me this, that someone else told them,’ so it was hearsay upon hearsay. So, we’re hoping at the trial level we’ll get a chance to actually get it directly from the source.”
The trooper testified about the day police stopped Ramsey and found the front seat missing and a strong odor of bleach in his car.
His testimony also focused on how Ramsey and alleged accomplice, James Howard George, were caught on video surveillance cleaning the vehicle at a car wash. They were also caught on video buying rope, a tarp and gloves at Walmart. Some of those items were later found on her body.
Barto’s badly burned body was found a few days later by a Lawrence County farmer. The District Attorney also said it’s too early to determine if George would be asked to against Ramsey.
“I think at some point we’re going to have to look at the case and see how we’re going to prove it at trial and go from there,” said Goldinger. “We got through a preliminary hearing today, and that was the goal today.”
Another alleged accomplice, Josh Bowser, was also held for trial on charges of conspiracy and abuse of a corpse.
The District Attorney says if may take a long time for Ramsey to be brought to trial.