Illinois professor, husband found slain in river, son says he was ‘sick of his parents’

An Illinois man has been charged with killing his mother and father and throwing their bodies in a river because he was “sick of his parents,” police said.

Jose Guadalupe Ramirez, 21, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Bradley University professor Susan Brill de Ramirez and her husband, Antonio Ramirez Barron. He is also charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon on a person, jail records show.

The couple, both 63, were bludgeoned and stabbed to death in their rural Peoria County home late Thursday or early Friday, police officials said. Authorities said Ramirez told friends he was "sick of his parents," so he killed them.

A second man, Matthew James Roberts, 20, has also been charged in the slayings. Initially charged with concealing the homicides and destroying evidence, Roberts has since been charged with two counts of first-degree murder after investigators determined he was an active participant in the crime, Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell said Wednesday.

Asbell said Roberts admitted his involvement in the homicides.

Both Ramirez and Roberts are being held in the Peoria County Jail in lieu of $3 million bail.

Credit: Peoria County Jail via AP

Credit: Peoria County Jail via AP

Asbell and Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood held a joint news conference to update the public on the case. The couple were originally reported missing Sunday night by their son.

When police officers arrived at their home near Princeville, they found blood and signs of a struggle.

"They both suffered pretty significant blunt force trauma injuries to their head and upper bodies," Harwood said. "And they also suffered pretty significant sharp object wounds and stab wounds as well."

Harwood said there were stab wounds across the couple’s bodies, along with significant defensive wounds on their arms, where they tried to fend off the assault.

"They, bluntly, did not go down without a fight," Harwood said. "They fought back, and they fought back really hard."

Watch the entire news conference below.

Asbell said the couple’s bodies were wrapped in a tarp and a tent before being thrown into the Spoon River about 5 miles from their home. Ramirez initially told detectives he’d dumped his parents’ bodies about 50 miles away, but subsequent interviews with both him and Roberts led to the actual location.

Harwood said his staff determined that the couple were in the river, in about 3 feet of water, for three or four days before they were recovered.

Harwood said the assaults were likely inflicted quickly. The Chicago Tribune reported that Assistant State's Attorney David Kenny said at Ramirez's bond hearing that he used pepper spray to subdue his parents, who were asleep when the attack began.

He then stabbed his father in the neck and stomach, the Tribune reported. Ramirez stabbed his mother when she woke up, authorities said.

Investigators recovered multiple weapons, including a baseball bat, that they believe were used in the homicides, Asbell said.

Harwood said it was unclear if the blunt force wounds or stab wounds ultimately killed the couple.

"We have pretty significant head wounds that were inflicted on the Mr. and Mrs.," Harwood said. "It's most likely to say that the stab wound were just an extra device to make sure that he did what he intended to do."

Credit: Peoria County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Peoria County Sheriff's Office

The coroner called the double homicide a tragedy not only for the victims’ families, but also for the Bradley University community and the Princeville community, which was put on edge by the slayings.

Bradley University officials said they are "heartbroken" over the deaths of Brill de Ramirez and Ramirez Barron, who were longtime employees. University spokeswoman Renee Charles said in a statement obtained by the Tribune that Brill de Ramirez, who was with the university for 27 years, was a Caterpillar professor of English and coordinator of graduate students in the English department.

Ramirez Barron worked at the university since 1982, the Tribune said. He was a technology support specialist for the school’s Information Resources and Technology Department.

"Both were warm and generous individuals who dedicated themselves to Bradley University and its students," Charles said. "Brill de Ramirez and Ramirez Barron were equally passionate about social justice causes and would not hesitate to lend anyone a helping hand. They will both be missed tremendously by all who knew them."

The university is offering walk-in counseling for students, faculty and staff. A vigil for the slain couple is being held Thursday on campus.

A friend of Brill de Ramirez called her a "lovable eccentric" in a lengthy Facebook post. David Von Behren wrote that Ramirez Barron's "affable gain and friendly, demure light-voiced demeanor was a Bradley institution all to itself."

Von Behren said Brill de Ramirez was a "wonderful mother" to their son, who a neighbor told the Tribune was adopted by the couple in the mid-2000s.

Asbell said Jose Ramirez was adopted when he was 6 or 7 years old.

The Tribune reported that Brill de Ramirez was also a longtime member of the Baha'i faith and was active in Peoria's Baha'i community. Mary Anne Crenshaw, a member of the Peoria Baha'i Center, said Ramirez was a "friend of the faith" who was often seen at the center.

Jose Ramirez had also been a regular participant since he was a child, Crenshaw told the newspaper.

“We’re just so sorry for what happened,” Crenshaw said. “Our community is reeling.”

Harwood said Wednesday that he had spoken to the victims' families, who found a measure of peace in their religious faith.

"Clearly, they're devastated by what has happened, but they do find solace in their faith in God, in their Christianity," Harwood said. "They know that despite this horrible, horrible tragedy their families went through, that they are with the Lord, which does bring them some peace."

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