A teenage boy who stumbled into a Northern California health club nearly two years ago almost naked with a chain shackled to his ankle testified Friday that a neighbor cut him with a knife, lit his pants on fire and beat him unconscious with a boxing glove.
In his first public appearance since his escape, Kyle Ramirez, 18, took the witness stand and vividly described the abuses he said he suffered at the hands of defendant Anthony Waiters and others while being held captive in 2008.
They "would just hit me. My back, my head. Basically everywhere," Ramirez testified.
Stunned jurors shook their heads as the teen gave his horrific testimony in San Joaquin County Superior Court.
Waiters, 31, is one of four people accused of torturing Ramirez and holding him captive in a Tracy, Calif., home. Waiters has pleaded not guilty to aggravated mayhem, torture, kidnapping and false imprisonment involving the teen.
Michael Schumacher, his wife Kelly Layne Lau and the teen's then-legal guardian Caren Ramirez have pleaded guilty to charges that included use of a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury to a child. They could face at least 30 years in prison when sentenced Dec. 6.
During questioning by prosecutor Angela Hayes, Kyle Ramirez testified that Waiters beat and burned him shortly before Thanksgiving 2008.
"They were all just laughing at me because I was trying to put the fire out," said Ramirez, then about 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 100 pounds.
The teen, now 6 feet 2 inches and 250 pounds, recounted other acts of cruelty, alleging Waiters once got a knife from the kitchen and cut his arm while Ramirez and Lau held him down.
"They cut my arm and poured bleach on it. It burned," he said, later showing jurors his scars.
He also said Caren Ramirez then put salt and butter on his cut arm and later wrapped it with clear tape.
During cross-examination, attorney Allan Jose, who represents Waiters, said he was not trying to trivialize the teen's injuries while repeatedly asking for times and dates of incidents.
The teen told Jose that before Waiters sliced him, he was hit with an aluminum baseball bat earlier in the day.
"Apparently that wasn't enough, so he cut my arm," Ramirez testified.
In a separate incident, Waiters burned him with a metal bat that had been heated in a fireplace near a spot where Ramirez often slept while chained to a table, the teen testified.
He said his alleged abusers typically told him they were punishing him for being rude, not doing his chores or being a "problem child."
Ramirez recalled getting hit in the head so much that wax or super glue was used to stop the bleeding or close the wounds.
The teen told Jose that he hit his head on the fireplace and was knocked unconscious after Waiters hit him with a boxing glove.
The lawyer asked if Ramirez had to go to a hospital afterward.
"Even if I had to go to the hospital, they weren't going to take me," the teen replied.
Jose then pointedly asked the teen if he was "embellishing or exaggerating the dramatic effect of what happened?"
"There's nothing to exaggerate!" the teen responded.
The emaciated teen managed to escape in December 2008 and fled wearing only boxer shorts and the shackle to a health club behind the house where he was held.
He said he had unchained himself after getting Schumacher's two-year-old son to get him a set of keys that Schumacher left around the house.
He said he escaped after Lau came home and caught him grabbing something to eat from the kitchen while he was unchained.
Lau and Caren Ramirez had rechained him to a child's chair, and Caren Ramirez sliced his back with a meat cleaver, the teen said.
Kyle Ramirez said he fled after recalling Schumacher and Waiters once saying they were going to "chop me up and throw me in the delta."
He ran to the backyard, jumped on a trampoline, hopped over a retaining wall and ran to the health club.
"I knew it was now or never," he said. "I thought I was probably going to die that night."