FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — The last outstanding suspect in the murder of 9-year-old Janessa Ramirez has reappeared, but not for long. A day after Action News explored the trail Donte Hawkins left behind, we followed him back to Fresno for his arrest.
Hawkins was on the run since January when police named him as one of the gunmen in a gang firefight. A stray bullet struck and killed Janessa Ramirez and although police don’t believe Hawkins fired it, he could still be blamed for the girl’s murder.
In our exclusive story Tuesday night, we explored the hiding places and destroyed evidence in the search for Donte Hawkins. Within hours, Hawkins surrendered and we were there following his trail again. And while he didn’t speak for himself, we did get to ask his attorney why Hawkins was on the run for so long.
Hawkins’ return to Fresno was unglamorous and high stress. The 21-year-old arrived at Fresno police headquarters in the passenger seat of an SUV. Three weeks ago, Fresno police revealed he was suspected of being in the passenger seat of a different vehicle and opening fire on a rival gang member. That mid-January confrontation resulted in the death of Janessa Ramirez, and Hawkins was wanted for murder. But after following his trail to an apartment in Clovis, a home in Southeast Fresno and finally to Sacramento, police couldn’t quite catch him. That is, until he decided to end the hunt himself. His attorney says it was just a matter of getting ready to mount a proper defense.
“I think he took some time to get his finances in order because he knew,” said defense attorney Miles Harris.
Hawkins knew what was being said about him. He heard the details of our story just hours before he turned himself in. Brian Cooks may have admitted firing the shot that killed Ramirez, according to police, but he also blamed Hawkins for starting the gunfight. And Isaac Stafford was arrested and released in the case after naming Hawkins as the shooter in his car, according to court documents uncovered by Action News.
“Look, there’s been a lot of mischaracterization, misinformation out there about my client and this is a serious case,” Harris said. “He’s treating it seriously.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, homicide detectives actually released Hawkins without taking him to jail despite having a warrant for his arrest. Their investigation continues and charges could still be coming. Cooks is already facing murder charges and Isaac Stafford’s attorney tells us he expects charges against his client as well, now that Hawkins has resurfaced.