A DeBary teen agreed to a plea deal today in the 2018 strangulation death of his mother, 46-year-old Gail Cleavenger.
Under the terms of the deal, Gregory Ramos, now 17, faces 45 years in state prison on the count of first-degree murder.
A shocking series of events unfolded over the night of Nov. 1, 2018, culminating with Cleavenger’s body being found buried under the fire pit of a nearby church.
Ramos is accused of strangling his mother after an argument over a “D” grade he received in a class at University High School. Ramos was 15 at the time.
Police said Ramos then concocted an elaborate lie about a home invasion, and enlisted two friends — both 17 at the time — to help cover up the crime.
Shortly after the arrest of the three young men, a grand jury determined that all three boys would be charged as adults.
The friends, Brian Porras and Dylan Ceglarek, both face charges of accessory after the fact to capital felony.
Ramos, who was not eligible for a bond, has been in custody for 756 days. Ceglarek has been unable to post a $200,000 bond, and has been in custody for 755 days. Porras posted bond after one day, and the conditions of his release have been modified to allow him to travel to Seminole County for work.
Today, Ramos accepted a guilty plea on three charges: first-degree murder, abuse of a dead body, and tampering with a crime scene.
Concurrent terms specified in the plea deal offered by the State Attorney’s Office would have him serve a total of 45 years in state prison, with a review and a chance for release on probation after 25 years. He also faces a lifetime of probation after his prison sentence, with an option to review that requirement after 10 years of probation.
The plea deal would make Ramos’ earliest release when he is 42 years of age.
Without the plea, Ramos could have faced life in prison. Because the crime occurred while he is a juvenile, the death penalty was not on the table.
Only days earlier, at a pretrial hearing Dec. 1, Ramos’ lawyer, Public Defender Matthew Phillips, indicated that the state had offered a plea deal the day before.
Phillips and his team had filed a slew of motions in October to suppress evidence, including the full interrogation of Ramos, during which, the Sheriff’s Office said, he confessed.
Court documents indicate that the defense believed officers with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and the Orange City Police Department had given “deficient Miranda warnings” to Ramos.
A hearing on the motions had been set for Dec. 22, but was canceled after the plea was offered.
Ramos will be sentenced Jan. 22.
“You’re pleading guilty to first-degree murder, abuse of a dead human body, and tampering with physical evidence. Do you understand that?” Judge James Clayton asked Ramos in court today in Daytona Beach.
“Yes, your honor,” Ramos replied.
“Did you do it?” Clayton asked.
“Yes, your honor,” Ramos said.