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Verdict Brings 'Sigh Of Relief' For Capital Gazette Families

Summer Leigh Geimer (left), the youngest daughter of Capital Gazette victim Wendi Winters, fights back tears as she talks about reliving the shooting during the three-week trial. Credit: Rachel Baye/WYPR
Summer Leigh Geimer (left), the youngest daughter of Capital Gazette victim Wendi Winters, fights back tears as she talks about reliving the shooting during the three-week trial. Credit: Rachel Baye/WYPR

When Jarrod Ramos shot his way into The Capital Gazette’s newsroom in June 2018, he killed Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Six others made it out alive.

But McNamara’s widow, Andrea Chamblee, said his crime had a much broader impact.

“I think when people talk about the five victims of this violent crime, you can look around and see there's a lot more than five,” Chamblee said. “It ripples all over the county, the state and the country.”

As Chamblee spoke outside the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Thursday afternoon, about an hour after a jury returned its verdict, she was surrounded by family members of people who were in the newsroom on that tragic day — those that survived, and those that didn’t make it out.

Ramos pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible due to his psychological state. However, after deliberating for less than two hours, the jury decided that any mental health challenges Ramos faces do not prevent him from being held criminally responsible for his actions.

After the jury announced its verdict, family members of those killed expressed relief that their three-year saga is finally approaching a resolution.

Several family members and survivors wore red.

“We wanted to wear red to show our solidarity — with each other, with the people who helped save the survivors, with the jury, and with all of you who report the news every day,” Chamblee told a crowd of reporters outside the courthouse. “Black, white and read all over.”

Chamblee said she was grateful that Ramos had “competent attorneys” and a chance at a fair trial.

“But the truth is, they had no evidence to show that he couldn't understand what he was doing was criminal, or that he couldn't stop himself from doing it,” she said.

For Cindy Rittenour, the sister of Rebecca Smith, the end of the trial and the jury’s verdict brought a “huge sigh of relief.”

“You could hear it throughout the courtroom, but you could also feel it physically,” Rittenour said, “to know that, like, how I can finally let my sister start to rest in peace and could just think about all the good times that I had instead of having to relive this horrible tragedy over and over again.”

Rittenour took a moment to thank the family of Wendi Winters, who attempted to save her sister’s life. When the shooter first entered the newsroom, Winters rushed at him with a trash can and a recycling bin.

“There's no words that I can say, to say how much I believe that Wendi is a true hero,” Rittenour said. “Especially, you know, grabbing that trash can and running to go to protect my sister. Hearing that absolutely broke me.”

Though she didn’t save Smith, others in the newsroom that day say Winters saved their lives.

Winters’ youngest daughter, Summer Leigh Geimer, said she hopes her mom’s name is among those remembered, rather than the name of the shooter.

“I do not believe that he should live on as a name that needs to be remembered,” Geimer said. “I cannot wait to forget his name.”

According to testimony during the three-week trial, that’s the opposite of what Ramos wanted.

He wanted the five murders to be his life's legacy, said Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.

"Unfortunately, he made it clear to the state of Maryland's doctors that he wanted to make this case a farce and make it a media circus, and I think he attempted that, but he did not get that,” Leitess said. “The fact that the jury came back in just two hours showed that they rejected all of his games that he attempted to play."

The judge said sentencing will take place in about eight weeks.

Leitess said she expects Ramos to get five life sentences without the possibility of parole.

“This is the most egregious case that our county has ever seen and probably one of the worst in the state of Maryland.”

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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