It seemed like it took months. In actuality, it was more like 15 days.
My life became consumed by a missing persons case-turned murder trial.
When Jennifer Ramsaran went missing in December 2012, I was not employed at The Evening Sun. I was not employed at the paper when her body was discovered unclothed on Center Road in Pharsalia in late February 2013.
I started as a “cub reporter” in April 2013. I covered stories about the Chenango SPCA, dance recitals, drug busts, and a story about the woman who was responsible for the apprehension of the man who has been deemed the “most prolific serial killer in America.”
On May 17, 2013, I covered something I knew I would never forget.
Ganesh R. Ramsaran was arrested for murder in the second degree. Law enforcement believed it had enough evidence against the man to charge him with killing his wife.
Former staff writer Kevin Doonan and I grabbed our cameras and ran to the Chenango County Courthouse where Ramsaran was being transported for his initial arraignment.
Chenango County Court Judge Frank B. Revoir Jr. was acting as the local court for Ramsaran’s first arraignment, and set his bail at $150,000 cash.
I remember the photos I took May 17. I remember the photos that were not printed, and the faces of everyone in each of the shots. I will never delete the photos.
Ramsaran posted bail and was released. Those are the rules.
I overheard once in Otsego County Court a Corrections Officer tell a defendant (completely unrelated to the Ramsaran case), “You give us the cash, we’ll get you out as soon as possible.”
I vividly remember going to the Ramsaran residence to take photos. I knew Ramsaran had posted bail. Having no clue whether or not he was home — but having seen a van in the driveway — I maintained a distance, on public property of course, and took the photos required for the story that was to print the following day.
From there on out, once Kevin Doonan left the paper, I treated the Ramsaran case like it was my baby.
Only accurate statements made in open court, verbatim words from purchased court documents, and conversations with lawyers would print on my watch.
I remember speaking with the first attorney representing Ramsaran, Thomas Ackerman out of Albany, for hours on the phone in my office. I still have those notes, and don’t even need them to recall the things he told me.
I was in contact with Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride as often as possible. I’d be willing to bet his assistants were tired of me calling to ask when Ramsaran was to appear on the court schedule — although they remain some of my most valuable professional contacts.
Pre-trial motions were all denied. Change of venue: denied. Special prosecutor: denied.
Ramsaran’s defense counsel changed to Gilberto Garcia out of Hackensack, N.J. in March, 2014.
Pre-trial hearings were closed to the press and the public as I believe they were motions to suppress. It wouldn’t be wise nor would it be fair for the public or press to learn information regarding the case that was determined not to be permitted to come out in trial.
The trial began Sept. 2, 2014. Sports Editor Pat Newell became in charge of building the front page, page three, and page six of the paper (along with his three sports pages) while I covered the trial.
When court took a lunch break, I took a “run back to the office as quickly as possible and build tomorrow’s pages” break.
After court ended for the day, I went home to write my story about that day’s proceedings. I easily was working 16-plus hour days.
To say the least, it was absolutely exhausting.
And I’m just a member of the press trying to cover a murder trial to the best of my ability. A case that I had been researching for months and months.
I can’t imagine what it was like for the family of the victim, or the defendant.
I listened to hours and hours of testimony. Looked at paper bags filled with evidence.
It was said from the beginning that the case was completely circumstantial. There was no weapon, no cause of death, no witnesses of the murder.
There was first a reported missing person, then a cell phone found by the now-convicted murderer. The deceased’s van was located by her father. The body was found by a Chenango County Sheriff’s Deputy’s father. The father who found the body did not take the stand, however his daughter — the deputy who secured the phone after Ramsaran found it — testified about her father locating the body.
I watched hours of video footage. Listened to recorded interviews between law enforcement and Ramsaran, and recorded telephone calls between Ramsaran and Eileen Sayles — the deceased’s best friend and the woman with whom he was having an affair.
I sat in the press box as a juror. I was to objectively take notes and cover the daily happenings.
I literally have 67 notebooks full of notes. 19 of said notebooks contain my opinion on certain rulings and comments made by various individuals involved in the trial. Those notebooks remain locked in an undisclosed location. One day, I’ll pull them out and write a book.
… One day.
Until then, I wait until Friday at 8 p.m. when there will be a Dateline NBC episode covering the murder and the trial. Some of my photos may be used. It was a pleasure to meet and enjoy the producer of the show, it’s something that will stick with me forever.
What will also always stick with me is the blast of emotions that took over this seemingly unemotional editor.
I’ll never forget my spot in the press box. I’ll never forget the photos I have of Ramsaran staring at me. I’ll never forget the nod of “hello” he gave me as I was the first to take a seat in the press box day one, where he stood at that time an innocent man fighting for freedom. I’ll never forget the look on his face when the guilty verdict was returned. I’ll never forget the cries from his mother that echoed through the courtroom. I’ll never forget watching the family of the victim cry and hug one another. I’ll never forget watching the corrections officer grab the back of Ramsaran’s suit before pushing him out of the courtroom.
Covering this trial is something I’ll never forget.
Ramsaran is set to be sentenced at 2 p.m., Dec. 1, 2014. This time has changed three times thus far, so any other changes in date or time of sentencing will be published in The Evening Sun.
Follow me on Twitter…@evesunashley