SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man accused of trying to sacrifice his 8-year-old son at Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego is mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Joseph Adalberto Ramirez, 31, was charged in May with premeditated attempted murder and felony child abuse.
Two months ago, Deputy Public Defender Courtney Cutter told a judge that she doubted Ramirez's ability to understand the charges against him and assist her at trial.
After reviewing a doctor's report Wednesday, Judge Frederick Maguire found that the defendant was mentally competent to stand trial and reinstated criminal proceedings.
He scheduled a Nov. 16 readiness conference and set a May 1 trial date. Ramirez faces life in prison if convicted.
At an earlier hearing, Deputy District Attorney Scott Pirrello said 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, the prosecutor 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.