NEOSHO, Mo. —
Kelly Schroer testified Tuesday that she was too scared of Guillermo Ramirez-Peyro to attempt an escape throughout much of the cross-country trip he is accused of forcing on her at the end of December.
Schroer, 41, of Tonawanda, N.Y., told a judge at Ramirez-Peyro’s preliminary hearing on a kidnapping charge in Newton County Circuit Court that she did not want to fly with the defendant to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to pick up a car and meet his family. But he assaulted her, bought the tickets and told her she was going with him anyway, she testified.
She said they fought again at a gathering of his family in Big Bear Lake, Calif. But it wasn’t until they were driving back to New York and stopped in Joplin the night of Dec. 28 that Schroer slipped out of their room at La Quinta Inn and sought the protection of police.
Prosecutor Jake Skouby asked Schroer why she never tried to get away before then, and she replied that he repeatedly threatened her and remained “within three feet” of her throughout almost all of the trip.
“I didn’t feel safe to try to get away,” she explained.
Associate Judge Gregory Stremel found probable cause at the hearing to order the defendant bound over for trial and set March 24 as the date for his initial appearance in a trial division of the court.
Ramirez-Peyro, 42, a former paid informant of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and infiltrator of a Mexican drug cartel, appeared in court Tuesday wearing a bulletproof vest and with extra sheriff’s deputies on hand for security purposes. The defendant, who remains jailed in Newton County on a $250,000 bond, was granted asylum in the U.S. in 2012 because of a perceived probability that he would be killed by the cartel if he were sent back to Mexico.
Schroer told the court that she first met Ramirez-Peyro in August of last year. She testified that he had been abusive and that she consequently obtained a protection order against him in New York.
Under cross-examination by public defender Kathy Byrnes, she acknowledged having had opportunities to seek help from airport security in Buffalo, N.Y., on a layover in another city and at the airport where they landed in Los Angeles. She said she did not seek help at any of the airports because she was afraid of retaliation on his part.
“I was afraid if things did not go well, I would get beat up again,” she said.
Byrnes questioned whether Ramirez-Peyro assaulted her or used physical force in any manner during the trip since police reports did not note any injuries. Schroer said she showed police a torn shirt and bruises on her face and arm.
The public defender submitted to the court three photos in which Schroer was pictured taking part in the family gathering at Big Bear Lake and an affidavit signed by her claiming that the protection order a court had granted in New York was groundless. But Schroer indicated that she was not telling the truth when she signed the document at the urging of Ramirez-Peyro’s attorney in New York.
“I didn’t want to say any of those things,” she said. “I didn’t want the protection order repealed.”
According to Joplin police, the protection order was still legally in effect when Ramirez-Peyro was arrested.
ACCORDING TO LAW ENFORCEMENT, Guillermo Ramirez-Peyro was in legal possession of the Ferrari Scaglietti he was driving when he was arrested in Joplin, even though the car did not belong to him. He reportedly picked up the vehicle in California for his boss.