Man faces charges in 2000 killing 

Nearly seven years after Claire Tempongko was stabbed to death in front of her children in an alleged domestic violence attack, her accused killer appeared in a San Francisco courtroom for the first time on the murder charge.

Judge Kathleen Kelly denied bail to Tari Ramirez, who appeared in court Monday on murder charges for the Oct. 22, 2000, killing in the Richmond district. The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Ramirez last June in Cancun, Mexico, where he fought extradition efforts.

The killing of Tempongko was the catalyst for a movement within city government to provide a more comprehensive response to domestic violence complaints. Ramirez was on felony probation for domestic violence charges at the time of the attack. Tempongko had gotten a restraining order against him and had called police with reports of abuse numerous times in the months before her death.

But still Ramirez was able to go to Tempongko’s 22nd Ave. apartment that October night, prosecutors say, where he allegedly stabbed her to death in front of her 5- and 10-year-old children. Neighbors reportedly saw Ramirez leave the apartment with a knife, which police recovered two blocks away.

"This is the moment of truth," said a tearful Clara Tempongko, Claire Tempongko’s mother, outside the courtroom where Ramirez’s arraignment was delayed for two days. She described the lengthy manhunt and extradition as "seven years of agony."

Following Claire Tempongko’s killing, the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women called for a full review on The City’s domestic violence reporting system. In 2002, the report stated that the criminal justice departments, namely the District Attorney’s Office, police and adult probation departments, failed to communicate effectively with one another.

While many of the report’s recommendations, including the hiring of a domestic violence specialist in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, were implemented, a new computer system intended to link police, sheriff, district attorney, probation and The City’s 911 center to the same database has not yet gone online.

Commissioner Dorka Keehn, of the Commission on the Status of Women, said Monday that the Police Department has not yet been able to link to the system. "Most of these departments were hand-tallying their information. One thing is to get the system up and running and the other thing was to get the information in," Keehn said. She said police Chief Heather Fong had indicated the department would soon be ready to link to the system.

Meanwhile, Ramirez is due back in court Wednesday to enter a plea. "It’s been a long road," District Attorney Kamala Harris said Monday, but she said the tragedy provided a necessary "wake-up call" that helped The City become more responsive to victims of domestic violence.

amartin@examiner.com

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