Mom of Texas teen murdered in 2001 says killer's execution will be 'joyful occasion' (2024)

Bridget Townsend was just getting her start in life as a young woman in the small Texas town of Bandera when Ramiro Gonzales raped and killed her. Her mom says she was 'a beautiful person.'

Amaris EncinasUSA TODAY

Bridget Townsend was planning for the future. The Texas 18-year-old was working full-time at a resort and eagerly waiting to hear back about an application to get into nursing school.

But on Jan. 14, 2001, a man named Ramiro Gonzales stole all that away and all the other moments and milestones that make up a life when he kidnapped, raped and murdered Bridget.

“She was a beautiful person who loved life and loved people," her mother, Patricia Townsend, told USA TODAY on Saturday. "Every time she was with somebody she hadn’t seen in a while, she had to hug 'em ... She didn’t deserve what she got.”

Now more than 23 years later, Gonzales is set to be executed for the crime in Texas on Wednesday, which would have been Bridget's 41st birthday. Patricia Townsend said the execution will be a "joyful occasion" for her and her family, who have been waiting so long for justice.

As Gonzales' execution approaches, USA TODAY is looking back at the tragic crime, who Bridget was what her family lost.

A terrible night

Bridget was at her boyfriend Joe Leal's house that terrible night.

Leal dealt drugs and Gonzales went to his house to steal cocaine, finding Bridget there alone.

After Gonzales came in and stole some cash, Bridget started to call Leal. That's when Gonzales overpowered her, tied her up and drove her to his grandfather's ranch, where he raped and shot her before dumping her body in a field, according to court records.

When Leal arrived home later that night, Bridget's truck, purse and keys were their usual spots but he couldn't find her anywhere and called police.

For nearly two years, no one but Gonzales knew what happened to Bridget. One day while he was serving a life sentence for the rape and kidnapping of another woman, Gonzales decided to confess to killing Bridget, leading authorities to her remains in a field in Bandera, a small town 40 miles northwest of San Antonio.

Gonzales was convicted of Bridget's murder in September 2006.

‘Thank God I got to see her’

Patricia Townsend last saw her daughter the same day she was killed. Townsend was working at a video store and had asked Bridget to drop by and return a video.

“Thank God I got to see her. And I told her I loved her. And I hugged her,” Townsend said.

Bridget left soon after, saying she was going to bed because she had to drive to work in the morning. Townsend told her daughter goodbye, reminding her that she loved her.

After Townsend closed the video store and went home for the night, she said she couldn’t shake the feeling that she heard Bridget call out to her: “Mom.” She tried to call Bridget but there was no answer.

“And I said, ‘Well don’t fret, Pat.’ She said she had to get up early and go to work so she’s probably sleeping," Townsend said. "But I should have known better because always slept with her phone right next to her in case somebody called her."

She thought about going to check on Bridget but talked herself out of it.

“And to this day I regret not going out there," she said. "Maybe I would have been there in time to stop him."

Patricia Townsend gets worst news of her life

For nearly two years, Townsend spent most of her time putting up flyers about her daughter and chasing leads.

Until one night a Bandera County sheriff asked her to come to the station. Although she had been holding out hope that her daughter was alive despite the odds, she instead got the worst news of her life.

The sheriff told Townsend that Gonzales had confessed to Bridget's murder, had led police to her body and that he had some things he was hoping she might be able to identify.

“And I walked on down the street. I couldn’t hear it anymore," she said.

Towsend says she didn’t even have a body to bury on Oct. 16, 2002 because Gonzales "wanted to see her body decay.”

Townsend rejected arguments from Gonzales that a childhood filled with trauma and neglect helped lead him down a path that ended in her daughter's murder.

“He doesn't deserve mercy," she said. "And his childhood should not have anything to do with it. I know a lot of people that had a hard childhood ... He made his choice."

It's Gonzales' own fault that he no longer has a life.

“He could be going to school or have a wife and kids," she said. "I don’t feel sorry for him at all and I don’t want other people to feel sorry for him. Some people I feel sorry for are his grandma and grandpa that raised him.”

What has also brought comfort to Townsend amid the grief is that Gonzales is set to leave the world the same day Bridget came into it.

“When they told me June 26, I started crying, crying and crying," she said. "That’s her birthday."

Instead of celebrating her daughter's 41st birthday, she'll drive four hours from her home in San Antonio to the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville and watch Gonzales die.

Mom of Texas teen murdered in 2001 says killer's execution will be 'joyful occasion' (2024)
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