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Maribel Ramos mystery: Abandon exams, or dog? No way, family says

She has been described as dependable and steady, a hard-working Army veteran just a couple of weeks away from graduating college with a degree in criminal justice. Maribel Ramos would not simply walk away.

But authorities say Ramos, 36, has been missing for more than a week, seen last on surveillance footage the night of May 2, turning in her rent check at her apartment complex at the 1800 block of East Rose in Orange.

She left behind her car and her small dog, a Chihuahua mix, she always had at her side. It appears that she had her cellphone and wallet with her at the time of her disappearance. 

She was reported missing the next day, a Friday, after she failed to show up to commitments, including speaking at a veterans group event and the softball game she'd played on Friday nights for almost six years. 

"We don't have any evidence that would substantiate a crime did occur," said Sgt. Fred Lopez, a spokesman for Orange police.

Although there was no sign of foul play, he said that it appeared to investigators that disappearing without alerting those close to her seemed out of character.

"She would never walk away from commitments, never walk away from family," Lopez said.

Family and friends have joined with authorities to launch an effort online and on the streets to find Ramos. They've organized a website and Facebook page, handed out fliers and are making T-shirts with photographs of Ramos, described as 5 feet, 2 inches tall and about 130 pounds with shoulder-length brown hair. She has tattoos of an Aztec tribal symbol on her back and a star on her left shoulder.

As her family tries to get her name and face out into the community, they've been left not only concerned but confused.

The last she'd talked to relatives was Thursday evening. Her cousin, Frank Campos, said he spoke to her that Thursday at 5:51 p.m. The two had played in the same softball game for years. "I'll see you then," she told him.

She had bailed out on the game before. She was studying at Cal State Fullerton, and that was her focus, especially around exam time. But she'd usually shoot Campos a text: "I can't make it tomorrow."

But last week, no text. No one in her family was able to make contact with her. They went to her apartment, saw a light on in her bedroom window, but no one was home. That's when they called authorities.

"It's just unusual of her," Frank Campos, 33, said. "She doesn't do anything like that. This is not Maribel. ... She's not the type of person to get up and go. There had to be something."

He grew up with Ramos. "She's a tough cookie," he said. "She won't go down without a fight."

More than that, though, he described her a person who could be relied upon. She cared for her mother before she died, and served for eight years in the Army — including tours in Iraq and Korea — before she was honorably discharged in 2008. 

"She fought for our country," he said, "and now we're fighting for her at home."

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Twitter: @rar

rick.rojas@latimes.com

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