Theresa Ramirez murders plastic surgeon over failed implants
Plastic surgery became big business in the 1990s. Dr. Michael Tavis was then one of Northern California’s top cosmetic surgeons, but his career was ended when he was murdered by a disgruntled ex-patient.
Michael James Tavis was born in 1944 and raised in Los Angeles. In his twenties, he enrolled at UCLA, becoming a registered physician and reconstructive surgeon in 1974. Just four years later, he started a family. He and his wife had two children and lived in Petaluma, north of San Francisco, but divorced in 1995.
In his spare time Tavis enjoyed painting and the fine arts. While taking a pottery class, he meets Deborah Seigmund, a recently divorced single mother.
“Deborah was extremely outgoing and exuberant, beautiful and she loved him. They were happy,” Dr. Tavis’ former patient Sandy Sage told “Snapped.” Sundays To 6 / 5c to Oxygen.
Tavis and Deborah married in a lavish ceremony in Paris in 1996. Upon her return home, she became a staple of her medical practice, advising patients on plastic surgery and postoperative care. The business soon flourished.
âHe did tummy tucks, liposuction, facelifts, eyebrow lifts, rhinoplasties, breast augmentation. He had an excellent reputation, âformer colleague Mark Hurd toldâ Snapped â.
On the morning of July 3, 1997, the Tavis went to work. When they arrived they were surprised to see their 8:30 am date sitting outside. Office manager Kay Carter usually got to work before them and opened up.
The Tavis entered from the back of the office and Deborah stopped to put on makeup. She overheard her husband talking to a woman who described having multiple surgeons. Tavis replied: “I’m sorry, I care,” according to court documents.
Deborah then heard a succession of shots. She ran through the back door to another nearby office building and called 911.
Response officers arrived to find Dr Michael Tavis, 53, dead from multiple gunshot wounds, Utah says News from DÃ©seret. On the floor near his office was Kay Carter, 59, alive but seriously injured.
âKay Carter appears to have suffered just one gunshot wound to the head. She wasn’t moving but she was making noise, moaning, âformer Petaluma Police Detective Danny Fish told the producers.
Carter was rushed to a nearby hospital. Detectives determined that the killer entered Tavis’ office through the same back entrance as the doctor and that Carter was the first gunshot victim.
“Dr. Tavis was shot in the chest, then once in the side as he turned to run and as he ran to the waiting room, received two more bullets in the back,” he said. explained Fish.
Due to the number of times Tavis was shot, investigators believed the murder was personal in nature and the doctor was the direct target.
Investigators asked Deborah if there was anyone resenting her husband.
“She was able to recall that there had been a number of patients who had not been satisfied with the surgeries they had received from Dr Tavis,” Fish tells producers.
During his career, Tavis had been sued a dozen times, according to the Associated press. These included complaints of medical malpractice and accusations of negligence and incompetence.
âOur investigators started to work actively to follow them, to see if there was anything unusual in their behavior, did they have criminal records of arrest, had they already made threats, and so they started working on each of these people as potential suspects, âformer Petaluma police chief Patrick Parks told the producers.
Debra Sojka, who worked in a nearby building, told investigators she saw a suspicious woman inside a small van behind Dr Tavis’ office on the morning of the murder. She had seen the same vehicle there a week earlier.
âI left for my lunch break around 1am and came back and she was in the parking lot but what was really strange was that at the end of the day at 5am she was still there, same position, just watching our building. A week later, on the day of shooting, I arrive early in the morning and here she is again, “Sojka told” Snapped. “
Investigators began to search for potential suspects from a list provided by Deborah Tavis. One of the suspects investigators were unable to contact was Theresa Ramirez.
Theresa Mary Ramirez was born in 1952 and raised in San Francisco, the eldest of three children.
âTheresa was a very small thing. Very frank, she would tell you what she thought about it. Never smoked, drank, sworn or anything, just a nice person, âfriend John Slaga toldâ Snapped â.
Ramirez was a nurse in Santa Rosa, California. Colleagues say Ramirez was left alone and did not socialize with them. In 1988, Ramirez was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although the cancer only affected her right breast, she chose to have a double mastectomy.
Ramirez went to see Michael Tavis for reconstructive breast surgery. While she was initially happy with the results, after a week she started complaining about the results, claiming that her breasts were patchy.
Over the next decade, Ramirez would undergo numerous surgeries on her breasts. She was never satisfied with the results and blamed her surgeons and health insurance providers when they balked at her ongoing procedures.
In 1992, Ramirez unsuccessfully sued Tavis, according to the United Press International. She claimed Tavis had not disclosed the risks of his leaked silicone breast implants. She also filed a lawsuit against implant maker Dow Corning.
Then, on July 7, 1997, Ramirez was found unconscious in a San Francisco hotel room, having fallen into a diabetic coma, according to the United Press International. In his room, police found $ 5,000 in cash, a train ticket to Southern California, two guns, and a notebook with a list of names.
“Each page contains personally identifying information about a number of people, including Dr. Tavis, his address, his office address, his wife’s name, Kay Carter, Kay Carter’s address, his license plate number, the names of several other doctors that she has had contact with in the past, âsaid Fish.â It definitely gives you the idea that this notebook she was carrying was a list of results . ”
One name on the list was Robert Feis, who was responsible for approving Ramirez’s surgery requests. He asked Ramirez to see a psychiatrist before approving other medical procedures.
“She had been operated on by several surgeons, most of whom refused to do more than one operation because they found it too difficult,” Feis told “Snapped.”
Ramirez became enraged when she learned that her request for surgery was denied. Feis eventually called security to have her removed from his office.
âShe looked at me and glared at me, and said, ‘I’ll show you why,’ and put her hands on her blouse and made the motion like she was going to rip her blouse,â got Feis remembers.
Before heading to Tavis ‘office on the morning of July 3, Ramirez first visited Feis’ workplace. Fortunately Feis was out of town at the time.
Ballistic tests would match one of Ramiriz’s weapons to the murder weapon, according to the Associated Press. Theresa Ramirez was arrested and charged with first degree murder and attempted murder. In February 1999, Theresa Ramirez was convicted of first degree murder in the death of Michael Tavis and the attempted murder of Kay Carter, according to the Los Angeles Times. She was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Carter recovered from his injuries but suffered permanent brain damage and lost the ability to speak. She died of complications from her injuries in 2012.
Now 69, Theresa Ramirez is currently incarcerated at the California Institution for Women outside of Los Angeles.
To learn more about this case and others like it, watch “Snapped”, aired Sundays To 6 / 5c to Oxygen.