Volusia teen who confessed to killing mother, burying body at church pleads guilty

Gregory Ramos has been in juvenile custody since 2018

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A teenage boy from DeBary accused of murdering his mother in 2018 pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges related to her death.

Gregory Ramos was 15 years old when he confessed to killing his mother and burying her body nearly two years ago, officials said.

Ramos, now 17, faced a judge and entered a plea of guilty for first-degree murder, abuse of a body and tampering with evidence. Ramos’ family members sat just feet away from him.

During court proceedings, Ramos, represented by a public defender, also told the judge he does not suffer from a mental illness as he signed his plea agreement.

“He’s extremely remorseful and he regrets his actions every day. And he’s been trying to be productive while he’s been in custody he has been obtaining a high school diploma,” Matthew Phillips, Ramos’ public defender, said.

Gail Cleavenger, Ramos’ mother, was reported missing in November 2018. Volusia County deputies said they found her body buried under a fire pit at a church a few days after her death, once Ramos confessed to strangling her at their home.

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Court documents show the two were arguing over the teen’s grades. Ramos initially told detectives 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.

After a two-day search for Cleavenger, Ramos made a detailed confession that officials described as “cold and calculated” and lacked emotion, records show.

Ramos told authorities that he killed his mother as a “preemptive strike,” believing she would one day kill him, arrest records note. Deputies said their investigation revealed no evidence that indicated an abusive relationship between the two.

As Ramos was a minor at the time that he confessed to his mother’s killing, his case can be reviewed after 25 years. He faces 45 years in prison on a first-degree murder charge. If tried as an adult, he would have faced the death penalty or life in prison, according to the judge.

Ramos’ plea asks that he serves time simultaneously on his other two charges, which also add up to 25 years. Ramos also agreed to lifetime probation and to wave his opportunity for a jury trial.

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2021.

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