Every week, many people tune in to see a new report presented by NBC’s ‘Dateline,’ a one-stop-shop for everything pertaining to true crime. The cases presented are well examined and thoroughly researched, and the series has set the standard for investigative journalism since its inception in 1992. In an episode, the show discusses the murder, and murderer, of a U.S. Army veteran in Orange County.
Who is K.C. Joy?
Kwang Choi “K.C.” Joy was the roommate of Maribel Ramos, a 36-year old Iraq War veteran. She was also studying criminal justice at Cal State Fullerton when she died. The last time she was seen alive was on May 2, 2013, when she went to drop off a rent cheque for their residence. Her family alerted the police of her disappearance after she failed to show up at a couple of events in Santa Ana.
Prosecutors claimed that Joy and Maribel had engaged in a heated argument about the rent on the night of her disappearance. The veteran had told him to move out because he hadn’t paid his dues. Moreover, it was also alleged that unrequited love was also a motive. Joy was in love with his roommate and had even gotten eye surgery to look younger. Apart from this, he had booked tickets on a cruise for them as well. Scott Simmons, the Orange County Deputy District Attorney, said in court, “Maribel was his life, and the opportunity for him to be with the love of his life was coming to an end.” Also, this was not their only spat. On April 21, 2013, Maribel had called 911 and said that she felt extremely unsafe after a conversation with her roommate, so much so that she was sleeping with a machete.
On May 16, 2013, Joy went to a public library and searched how long it took for a body to decompose. On the same computer, he then looked at a location near Santiago Canyon and Jackson Ranch. Authorities would end up finding Maribel’s extremely decomposed corpse in the area in less than an hour, in Modjeska Canyon. Shockingly, her body could not even be recognized, and they had to use dental records to verify her identity. Moreover, a cause of death was never determined because of the decayed condition of her body.
Joy was arrested the next day, but he claimed that he was innocent. In court, he said, “I miss Maribel more than anyone. I think about it, I’ve been here about 440 days in the jail. I think about it almost every day.” He also called her his best friend and his family. Authorities noted that he had cuts and scratches on his arms. But Joy stated that his doctor had said that these were non-specific abrasions and not fingernail scratches.
Defense attorneys did state that Maribel was drinking that night, and she was predisposed to paranoia. It was also alleged that she was suicidal, and there was a possibility that she died due to a medical condition. In fact, Joy’s lawyer, Adam Vining, used this facet of the case in court, hoping to lessen the charges for his client. He argued that, at most, Joy could be convicted of manslaughter and not murder. Vining stated, “The crime that will be proven here is improper disposal of a body.”
Where is K.C. Joy Today?
Although physical evidence did not link Joy directly to the murder, a jury found the then 55-year-old guilty on one felony count of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 15 years to prison in life. He gave an interview in 2014 from the Orange County Jail, in which he still continued to proclaim his innocence. He maintained that the two were platonic friends and that he was unaware of who actually killed her.
Joy said that he wanted a retrial, not an appeal. He wanted the evidence that was earlier excluded in court to factor into the new trial— “They searched my apartment about seven times. No DNA. No finger print. No signs of foul play or anything.” Although he wrote letters to the judge and Eyewitness News, his requests for a retrial were simply denied.
Read More: How Did Maribel Ramos Die?