Victor Ramirez

Victor Aureliano Martinez Ramirez

A man accused of attacking and sexually assaulting a 64-year-old woman, who later died, is in the country illegally, according to Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin. 

Marilyn Pharis died Saturday eight days after she was attacked with a hammer and sexually assaulted in her Santa Maria home, and authorities are weighing whether her alleged assailant, already charged with attempted murder, will face additional charges.

The day before she died, Victor Aureliano Martinez Ramirez, a 29-year-old undocumented immigrant, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, first-degree burglary with person present, assault with intent to commit rape, sexual penetration by foreign object and resisting a peace officer.

He is also facing a variety of special allegations, including use of a deadly weapon in a sex offense, causing great bodily injury in a sex offense, assault with a deadly weapon on an elderly person and a violent crime against a vulnerable victim.

Pharis was severely injured in the attack at her home in the 900 block of North Dejoy Street on the morning of July 24. She was being treated at Marian Regional Medical Center when she died.

Ramirez was arrested after Pharis called police to report the attack. Police said he was found nearby in another home he had broken into in the 1000 block of West Donovan Road.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Karapetian said she is unable to comment yet on when or if the complaint against him will be amended to include a murder charge.

Martin said Tuesday afternoon that he had confirmed Ramirez's immigration status with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Ramirez had been arrested four times in the past by SMPD for minor crimes, most recently in May of 2014, Martin said. At the time of his arrest, he was on probation, which he is charged with violating.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said that an autopsy will be performed on Pharis on Thursday morning.

Martin said that the Police Department and the District Attorney will hold a joint press conference at 1 p.m. Friday.

"We have a good idea of where we're at, but we want medical confirmation," he said.

Ramirez is due in court again Aug. 13 for a preliminary hearing setting. He was assisted by a Spanish interpreter at his last appearance.

Ramirez is represented by Deputy Public Defender Lori Pedego, who asked last week that her client be seen by mental health staff in County Jail.

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