Maribel Ramos, a Cal State Fullerton senior and former Army sergeant, was found dead late Thursday night, concluding a weeks-long search for the student who was soon to graduate.
Friends and co-workers of Maribel Ramos spread their support in honoring the woman who has been described as a leader of students and veterans as police announced this weekend that Ramos’ body has been found and that her roommate has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Her body was found in brush near Modjeska Canyon on Thursday. Police have reclassified her case as a homicide, and have placed her roommate Kwang Chol Joy under arrest, Orange police Lt. Dave Hill said.
Her roommate Kwang Chol Joy was questioned by police and voluntarily accompanied them to the police station, Hill said.
Joy, 54, was arrested on suspicion of murdering Ramos on Friday.
He has a court trial date set for Tuesday, according to county records.
In the past weeks, Ramos’ family and co-workers at University Outreach and Veterans Certification reached out to the university and local community for help in the search efforts.
Ramos, 36, was an Army sergeant who served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea.
She was three weeks away from graduating with a degree in criminal justice at the time of her disappearance and was scheduled to be highlighted at a veterans appreciation dinner.
She had been missing for two weeks when police recovered her body in the wilderness of eastern Orange County Thursday night; the body was positively identified as Ramos the next day.
“Her light was put out way too soon,” said her co-worker Delia Tijerina, assistant director of University Outreach and Veterans Certification.
Active in the campus veterans community, Ramos had been planning on getting a job with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs upon her graduation, Tijerina said.
Orange police are now handing the case over to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, which is expected to release more information this week, Hill said.
Police have not released any information on a possible motive or other details behind the murder.
News of Ramos’ death quickly spread through social media to the campus community over the weekend.
“Since Maribel went missing earlier this month, our community has come together to spread the word about her disappearance and keep her foremost in our hearts and prayers,” CSUF President Mildred García said in a statement.
Search fliers had been set up around campus and student help in the search efforts were commemorated by CSU Chancellor Timothy White when he visited campus on Thursday.
“She was a wonderful role model for our students, faculty and staff. And we honor her for her past service to our country as an airborne paratrooper in the Army and her commitment to her education,” García said.
A co-worker of Ramos, Tijerina, who helped coordinate the civilian search efforts, said Ramos was a leader who demanded excellence of herself and others.
“I would want others to remember her passion; she saw a goal and pursued it passionately. She was confident and determined and as a result she accomplished so much in such a short period of time,” Tijerina said.
Ramos’ supervisor Brenda Estrada, veterans certification officer for University Outreach and Veterans Certification, said Ramos was a role model among her peers.
“We did not just lose a student assistant, we lost an amazing human being, someone that gave eight years of her life to fight for our freedom,” Estrada said.
Estrada had accompanied Ramos to a conference in Chicago about adjusting from military to student life.
Ramos went missing about 24 hours after she returned from that trip.
Many students via social media requested that Ramos’ degree be given to her family.
Megan Lott, a senior communicative disorders major, said that Ramos’ hard work should be recognized since she was only weeks from graduating.
“I hope the school does the right thing and acknowledges the unique and very unfortunate circumstances this is under,” Lott said.
Tijerina said plans are being made to commemorate Ramos’ memory on campus.
“I know that a seat will be saved for Maribel at commencement and her family will be there,” Tijerina said.
A representative planning the commencement ceremonies did not answer a request for comment over the weekend.