Sunnyside man takes plea deal & escapes murder charge after key witness dies

Luis Enrique Ramos De La Riva

YAKIMA, Wash. — A Sunnyside man has escaped murder charges after the sole witness to a 2018 altercation suddenly died, leaving prosecutors without enough evidence to convict him.

Defendant Luis Ramos-De La Riva pleaded guilty to a felony violation of a no-contact order in a domestic violence case as part of a plea bargain on November 18, 2021. Additionally, the court is dismissing unrelated charges of 2nd-degree murder and 1st-degree assault as part of this agreement.

After serving three years in custody while being held for homicide allegations, Ramos-De La Riva was given credit for time served for the domestic violence case. He was sentenced to a 17-month term of imprisonment in Yakima County Superior Court—the more extreme of a standard 13-to-17-month sentence for such instances.

FIRST REPORT: Man stabbed multiple times in Sunnyside; suspect arrested

As a result of his plea deal, Ramos-De La Riva is set to be freed. This notion is confirmed by the County Jail roster as of Thursday afternoon.

On November 20, 2018, Ramos-De La Riva was accused of stabbing Jason Espinoza multiple times, leading to his death at a Seattle-area hospital. This incident occurred outside of the defendant’s Sunnyside home, where Espinoza allegedly threatened to kill Ramos-De La Riva.

Court records show that the defendant pulled out a pair of clippers and stabbed Espinoza—the final altercation in a contentious history between the two men. To this day, Ramos-De La Riva maintains that he is innocent and that he acted out of self-defense.

SECOND REPORT: Sunnyside stabbing suspect likely to face murder charge after victim dies

This conflicted with statements from the sole witness of this altercation, who claimed that Ramos-De La Riva acted aggressively and that he had to pull the defendant off of Espinoza.

However, the eyewitness suddenly died several months after the homicide, leaving WA state prosecutors without enough evidence to prove the murder charge in a court of law.

“Once self-defense is raised as a defense, the State of Washington is required to prove the absence of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt,” Yakima County Prosecutor Joseph Brusic explained in a statement on Thursday. “Unfortunately, without that eyewitness, the State finally conceded that it could not rebut the defendant’s claim of self-defense.”

This is a breaking news story. An update and/or follow-up will be issued if further developments are announced.


RELATED: Moses Lake resident busted for possession of child pornography