Danielle Ramirez strongly believes that Michael Paprskar never truly paid for
Paprskar, who escaped the death penalty when his conviction for ordering the
fatal shooting of Ramirez's 4-year-old brother in 1970 was overturned on
appeal, died of heart failure Feb. 20 in Bexar County. He was 70.
Though he served 10 years behind bars for the deaths of Ramirez's father and
uncle, Ramirez said the time didn't even begin to compensate for the loss of
her loved ones. Nor, she said, did it make up for the countless other violent
acts committed by Paprskar for which he was never held accountable.
While she doesn't wish death on anybody, Ramirez said, receiving word that
Paprskar was dead brought her some relief.
"When I got that phone call, I thought, 'Finally he's having to answer to
somebody higher than a judge, somebody higher than attorneys,'" said Ramirez,
who was only a few months old when her father, uncle and older brother were
"I guess that maybe gives my heart comfort knowing he's finally having to
answer for his actions."
Many considered Paprskar lucky.
Time after time, the Fort Worth native managed to avoid serious consequences
for a half a century of violence that included four deaths. In the 1950s,
Paprskar slashed the neck and face of a 19-year-old sailor in a dispute over a
pint of whiskey. The assault-to-murder charge was dismissed after a Tarrant
County jury deadlocked.
In the '60s, he was arrested but never charged for fatally shooting a
20-year-old Irving man between the eyes. Paprskar had caught the man stealing a
tire from his car.
In 1970, authorities say, Paprskar, upset over being sold some bad heroin,
instigated the fatal shootings of Daniel Ramirez and his brother, Samuel
Ramirez, inside his Fort Worth motorcycle shop. He then ordered Daniel
Ramirez's 4-year-old son, Danny Jr., to be killed when the boy was discovered
waiting in the men's car outside.
Paprskar's then wife, Bonnie, and 2 men who had been living with the couple in
their motorcycle shop/home, later pleaded guilty to taking part in the slayings
and were sentenced to prison. (All have since been released.)
Paprskar, the only one to stand trial, was sentenced to death for the child's
slaying but never stepped foot on death row. 2 years later, while he was still
in the Tarrant County Jail, Paprskar's conviction was overturned based on
illegal search and seizure of evidence used in the trial. A new trial, moved to
Houston because of the extensive publicity, was about to begin when Paprskar
pleaded guilty to killing the boy's father and uncle. In exchange, he received
2 20-year sentences to run concurrently. Credited with good behavior and time
spent in the county jail, Paprskar walked out of prison a free man in 1980.
Followed by trouble
With a new name -- he had it legally changed to Abraham Fortune -- Paprskar
left Fort Worth, eventually settling in San Antonio.
But his troubles continued.
In 1984, he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the
stabbing of a 21-year-old man in a bar restroom. The case was dismissed after
witnesses backed Paprskar's claims that he was defending himself.
In the '90s, he was sentenced to 8 years' deferred-adjudication probation for
shooting a man who had wanted more money for mowing the grass at Paprskar's
And at the time of his death, Paprskar was still awaiting trial on another
charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, stemming from the 2005
shooting of a customer at his San Antonio motorcycle shop.
In a telephone interview in 2010, Paprskar said he had been vilified for acts
in which he played no part or in which he was only defending himself. "I'm not
claiming I've been an angel all my life," he said. "But all this violent stuff
-- I never once went and started any fight with anyone. ... Almost everything
that happened was in my car, in my house or in my businesses. It wasn't in some
beer joint going crazy with a gun and shooting something up. I never instigated
Cliff Herberg, a Bexar County assistant district attorney, was skeptical when
his office got word that Paprskar, who had claimed to be in very poor health,
"I said, 'Confirm he's dead because we're used to him playing these kind of
tricks,'" Herberg said.
Herberg blamed the court's backlog for the delays in bringing the 2005 case to
trial. He said Paprskar's attorney had often tried to persuade the district
attorney's office to dismiss the charge because of his client's poor health.
"I said, 'No way. It's my goal to see that he dies in prison,'" Herberg said.
"I felt like he had it pretty lenient already because of the twist of events in
the past. He needed to be in prison, and I didn't care if he died or not."
Ramirez said she's upset that Paprskar was never tried in the case and that
Paprskar was able to live his last years "on his own terms."
"I was obviously robbed of living a life with my father," Ramirez said. "... I
was robbed of that, but thank God I had my mother. She had to play both roles
Her mother, Carmen Harris, was just 14 when she married Daniel Ramirez. 2 years
later, Danny Ramirez Jr. was born, and 4 years after that, Danielle.
Harris said raising her daughter is what kept her going after her husband and
son were killed.
"I'm a survivor, but what else was I going to do?" said Harris, who remarried
twice and had 2 more daughters. "I couldn't give up. I had a daughter that was
3 months old. I had to move on."
With only a 9th-grade education, Harris worked at a printing company and later
on an assembly line at night while attending barber school during the day. Her
in-laws and family helped care for Danielle.
In 1983, Harris opened a hair salon in downtown Fort Worth. In 1986, she opened
a second downtown salon on Commerce Street (closing the first location about a
year later). Danielle Ramirez works alongside her mother at the Executive Hair
"She is a remarkable woman," Ramirez said of her mother. "So many things I do,
she says, 'Your dad would have been so proud.' I say, 'Yeah, he would have been
proud, but you're the reason I am who I am today.'"
Harris said she refused to waste thoughts or feelings on Paprskar when he was
alive and won't do so now that he's dead.
"I really believe you have to move on and make the best of everything God has
given you," Harris said. "He doesn't have to answer to me. Even though he
changed his name, God still knows who he is."