DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A 15-year-old accused of strangling his mother and burying her body at a Volusia County church entered a not guilty plea Thursday.
Gregory Ramos, who is being charged as an adult in the killing of his mother, Gail Cleavenger, 46, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, abuse of a dead human body and tampering with physical evidence.
Cleavenger's body was found buried under a fire pit at River City Church on Highbanks Road last month after Ramos confessed to killing her, sheriff's officials said.
According to investigators, Ramos said that it took 30 minutes to strangle his mother a couple days earlier at the family's home on Alicante Road in DeBary. Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Ramos was motivated by rage after the two got into a dispute about Ramos' school grades.
Deputies said Ramos used a wheelbarrow to load her body into a van and buried her body at the church.
Ramos told detectives he enlisted the help of two friends to bury his mother's body and stage a burglary scene at the Alicante Road house. The friends, Dylan Ceglarek and Brian Porras, both of whom are 17, face charges of acting as accessories to a first-degree murder. They will also be charged as adults.
Deputies said Ramos reported that he returned home from school and discovered that the house had been burglarized, his mother was missing and her van was running in the driveway. He then made a 911 call to report the alleged burglary.
According to officials, Ramos later confessed to killing his mother. Chitwood said the teenager's confession was "cold and calculated" and lacked emotion.
"He is a soulless individual who thought he was going to outsmart everyone in the room," Chitwood said.
Ramos will not face the death penalty, but he could receive life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors said if he pleads to or is convicted fo a lesser charge, it will be up to a judge to decide if he should be sentenced as a juvenile.