Noelle Ramirez died by suicide while battling mental illness. Now the man behind the website where she bought poison is under arrest.
All was quiet at the Ramirez house in Montrose, Colo., when a knock at the door interrupted the family’s typical routine just after midnight on March 3, 2023. David, 56, a website designer, was working late in his home office after his wife, Sara, 41, had put the youngest of the couple’s three children, Matthew, 3, to bed.
Their 22-year-old daughter Noelle, who struggled with mental illness from an early age, had told Sara that she was going to bed because she wasn’t feeling well. Instead, she crawled out of her bedroom window, walked over to a park nearby and called 911 to report her intention to die by suicide.
The knock on the door at the Ramirez home was from a police officer who said they’d found Noelle at the park, unconscious. She was transported to a hospital, where she died shortly after arriving.
Devastated by the loss of their daughter, who had been hospitalized more than 20 times for depression, OCD, gender dysphoria and other issues, David and Sara had closely monitored Noelle’s activities because she had discussed suicidal ideation, but, after gender reassignment surgery, they thought she’d turned a corner, David says.
Their grief turned to anger two months later when, on what would have been Noelle’s birthday, Montrose police officers were at their door again with more distressing news: In the course of an investigation of a Canadian businessperson and hotel cook, Kenneth Law, who allegedly sold suicide kits online, police learned from the FBI that Noelle had paid for a $60 shipment of a lethal substance that she used to end her life.
The Montrose Police Department confirms that they were in contact with the FBI during the investigation.
David says the package the FBI flagged was in fact the second of Noelle’s orders. She had used the first one to die by suicide.
Law, 58, was arrested in Mississauga, Ont., on May 2, 2023, and has been charged with 28 counts of first-degree murder and abetting and counseling suicide in the deaths of 14 people, ages 16 to 36, in Canada. Authorities now believe websites operated by Law sold sodium nitrite—a food preservative that can be deadly if ingested—and related equipment that caused the deaths of adults and minors in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K, according to Canada’s Peel Regional Police.
“It’s unbelievable that this can happen,” says David, who says his daughter was active on a “sanctioned suicide” website where users have in-depth discussions about ending their lives.
He says it’s the same website where she likely met Law and documented the process leading up to her suicide that night.
“This man is targeting our most vulnerable people with dangerous products that can kill. He needs to face justice,” David says.
David D Luxton, a behavioral science professor and suicide researcher, says even though it’s easy for people to access whatever product they want online, Law’s case is particularly “devious.“
“That liability is much more clear in this case because there was intent to help facilitate a person taking their life,” he tells PEOPLE.
Through his attorney Matthew Gourlay, Law—who has not been charged in Noelle’s death—says he is not responsible for the use of products he sells and will plead not guilty to the charges.
As the firstborn of the Ramirezes’ children—David has two older kids from a previous relationship—Noelle distinguished herself with her strong drive and fierce intelligence.
She learned the periodic table by the time she was 8, and not just the numbers. She could tell you the half-life of the elements,” recalls David.
As a teenager, she made computers at home and often gave them to friends in need. “Nothing asked for in return, just friendship,” David says.
With her parents’ support, Noelle had gender reassignment surgery in 2022.
“We did what parents should do and we loved our child and we accepted her as she was,” David says.
Noelle's numerous hospital visits had inspired her to become a nurse. Before her death, she had plans to go to nursing school and travel to Europe. But after her death, her parents realized her application for a passport was only a ruse to receive a package by mail—the suicide kit sent by Law.
David and Sara had been monitoring Noelle’s mail because they feared she was at the risk of self-harm. But they didn’t monitor Noelle’s online activity, believing it to be a violation of her privacy.
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Nearly a year later, David remembers Noelle in the simplest things.
“Sometimes, if I wake up in the morning and there’s light coming in from the outside, I’ll go past her room and always look for shadows under the door just to see if she’s there,” he says, breaking down. “And she’s not.”
He has joined local efforts to regulate the sale of sodium nitrite.
“No other parent should have to go through this,” he says, explaining why he wants to tell Noelle’s story.
“I felt a responsibility,” he adds. “There are monsters out there.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.
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