HOPE, Idaho – It was a case that shook the small community of Hope, Idaho to the core. Seventy-eight year-old Shirley Ramey was shot to death in her rural home and still investigators don't have any suspects and no arrests have been made in the case.
Friends and family say she had no enemies and was not tied up in trouble. Shirley Ramey was the long-time city clerk in Hope, a town of just 90 people, and for decades was the keeper of schedules and the master of local codes and rules.
Larry Keith, a former mayor, worked with her for years.
“She was amazing,” he said. “If we had a question, we would call and she knew the answer to it.”
Keith said Shirley never missed a city council meeting in the 25 years she worked for the city.
Shirley’s husband, Daryl, said he remembers much more than her civil service. A half century ago, they first met at a dance.
“She was a good looking gal,” he recalled. “We was at a dance. Took her out on a date the next day.”
Marriage, kids, and a life in Hope followed for Daryl and Shirley.
Their two boys would grow up and move away, but Daryl and Shirley stayed in Hope. It was a classic love story, but one that would take a turn that no one can understand.
“The last thing she said to me was, 'Be careful,'” Daryl Ramey said.
One year ago, on April 5, Daryl was playing cards in town while Shirley stayed home. He said when we returned later that evening, his life changed forever.
“That’s when I stepped up on the deck and I found her,” he said.
Shirley was dead on the floor, and had been shot in the head. Some things were stolen, but detectives never said what was taken.
“Some of us still cannot get our heads around this whole situation, because it doesn’t even make sense,” said Keith.
The Ramey’s home is close to two miles up a rural road off Highway 200 near Hope.
“So a lot of what makes Shirley unique is the abstractness of it,” said Phil Stella, a Bonner County Sheriff’s detective. “So far out of the way.”
There are no witnesses and no surveillance video. Authorities originally pegged a local man named Nathan Utt for her death. Utt, who was schizophrenic and somewhat of a transient, lived in a camper not far from the Rameys. But he had an alibi that checked out and put him out of the state at the time of Shirley’s murder.
Now, detectives say it is not clear who the killer is or where they are.
“I have no doubt that there’s somebody else out there that knows exactly what happened to Shirley,” said Stella.
Detectives from the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office said they are not giving up on the case and it is still an open investigation.
Evidence from the scene is being tested at both state and federal labs.
“You never know what’s going to come up,” Gary Johnston, Detective Sgt. from BCSO said. “I’ve got it on the desk, when the leads come in, what few that are trickling in now, we’re hoping to get tested.”
They are also now making comparisons between Shirley’s murder and that of a 73-year-old man from Clark Fork who was killed last December. BCSO said previously George Andres came home during a burglary at his home and was shot and killed. No suspects were ever named in that case either.
Meanwhile, back in Hope, people in town are trying to make sense of it all. Keith, the former mayor, pointed out Shirley devoted a lot of time to the town cemetery. Planned improvements there are a result of her efforts, and it is now where she rests with an epitaph reading, “Never missed a city council meeting.”
Up Highway 200, a memorial stands at the intersection that leads down to her home.
“Everybody misses her,” Daryl said.
Perhaps no one more than Daryl. A reward offered by him and the family has now climbed to $15,000 for information that helps solve why a beloved city clerk was gunned down in her own home.
“It’s hard to believe, you know,” said Daryl. “It’s been a year now. Just hope something comes of this.”
BCSO is still looking for tips in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the tip line, 208-255-COPS.