Last Easter, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, a 31-year-old mom with a $30,000-a-year job as a medical assistant, announced to her family that she had converted to Islam. A few months later, she began posting to Facebook forums whose headings included “STOP caLLing MUSLIMS TERRORISTS!”
Wall Street Journal -By VANESSA O’CONNELL in New York STEPHANIE SIMON in Colorado and EVAN PEREZ in Washington
On Sept. 11, she suddenly left Leadville, Colo., a small town in the Rocky Mountains, for Denver, then for New York, to meet and marry a Muslim man she connected with online, her family says. Ms. Paulin-Ramirez, who is 5-foot-11 and blonde, phoned her mother and stepfather in Leadville, providing them with an address in Waterford, Ireland, they say.
Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, a 31-year-old mom, is in the custody of the Irish police, along with six other individuals, arrested as part of an investigation into a conspiracy to commit murder.
Now, she is in the custody of the Irish police, along with six other individuals, arrested as part of an investigation into a conspiracy to commit murder, according to officials familiar with the case. The nature of the authorities’ suspicions about Ms. Paulin-Ramirez couldn’t be determined on Friday.
Nearby was a stack of photos of Ms. Paulin-Ramirez, with a sparkling smile, and her son, who has brown hair and eyes. Her mother looked at the images over and over, as college basketball played on the TV.
Ms. Paulin-Ramirez had been in contact by phone and email with her mother, stepfather and an aunt, her relatives said. But none of them has heard from Ms. Paulin-Ramirez in recent days, they said.
Ms. Paulin-Ramirez is the second American woman to be linked to an alleged plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist who made fun of the Prophet Mohammed. An indictment was unsealed this week against Colleen R. LaRose, 46, a suburban Philadelphia woman who authorities said used the Web alias “JihadJane.”
Ms. LaRose was accused of plotting to kill the cartoonist and attempting to recruit jihadis via the Internet.
She was arrested in October and later charged with providing material support to terrorists.
The Justice Department kept its case under wraps until this week while investigators in the U.S. and Europe pursued their investigation against other potential suspects in the U.S. and abroad.
The main contact for Ms. LaRose is believed to be one of the men in Irish custody, an Algerian, who has a relationship with Ms. Paulin-Ramirez, according to a person close to matter.
A person close to the Irish police couldn’t confirm whether Ms. Paulin-Ramirez and the Algerian are married.
Ms. LaRose spent roughly two weeks in Ireland last fall, a person familiar with the matter said.
The Irish police are holding four men and three women, including three Algerians, a Croatian, a Palestinian, a Libyan and a U.S. national, according to a person close to the police.
They are being questioned and haven’t been charged.
A U.S. official familiar with the matter confirmed that Ms. Paulin-Ramirez is the U.S. national. The Justice Department declined to comment.
The seven people in custody, whose ages range from the mid-20s to the late 40s, can be held for seven days without charges, under Irish law. They are being held in four different police stations, Waterford, Tramore, Dungarvan and Thomastown, and are being questioned, according to the source. A spokesman for the Irish police said the arrests took place in Waterford and Cork, but he declined to provide further details.
The seven were arrested as part of an investigation into “a conspiracy to commit a serious offense (namely, conspiracy to murder an individual in another jurisdiction),” according to a police news release on Tuesday.
“We are very concerned about what she’s into, and concerned about her well-being,” said Cindy Holcomb Jones, an aunt of Ms. Paulin-Ramirez, who lives in Independence, Mo.
Another of Jamie’s aunts, Sheena Holcomb McCarty, of Overland Park, Kansas, said she had been in contact with Ms. Paulin-Ramirez by email as recently as earlier this month.
“When I saw pictures of that woman [Ms. LaRose], I thought—that’s what Jamie is doing. Jamie is wearing the same outfit that woman is wearing,” Ms. Jones added.
In the months before Ms. Paulin-Ramirez left Leadville, taking her 6-year-old son but little clothing or other belongings, she began “wearing the black garb so you can only see her eyes,” her aunt said.
“We knew that she was dabbling in the Muslim religion. But for her to disappear like this was from left field—we weren’t expecting it at all,” said Ms. Jones, who until last fall would speak to her niece on the phone almost every day.
Ms. Paulin-Ramirez had begun spending more time on the computer, her mother complained to the aunt. “All of a sudden, she stopped talking to me and she disappeared,” Ms. Jones said.
Relatives of Ms. Paulin-Ramirez said they’re distressed because her son was with her in Ireland. The boy’s father is Mexican and hasn’t seen the child in about 5 years, said George Mott, Ms. Paulin-Ramirez’s stepfather, who lives in Leadville with her mother.
Ms. Paulin-Ramirez and her new husband had recently changed the child’s name to Wahid. Mr. Mott said he believed the boy is in the care of the Irish authorities, but would like him returned to Leadville.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in nearby Blue Springs, Ms. Paulin-Ramirez had relocated with her mother to Colorado.
She was working as a medical assistant at the Eagle Valley Medical Clinic in Edwards, Colo., before she left, Mr. Mott said.
Ms. Paulin-Ramirez had married several times over the years—some of her relatives estimated she was married four times.
Her aunt Ms. Jones said she had expressed an interest in Christianity, and had asked to borrow or have her grandmother’s bible.
In 2008 or 2009, Mr. Mott said, Ms. Paulin-Ramirez enrolled in an online course about Islam.
By Easter 2009, she had informed her mother that she was a Muslim. At her father’s May 2009 funeral in Kansas, her aunts had to plead with her not to cover her head and hair with a hijab.
Over the summer, her family says, she was spending increasing time on the computer and had begun to dress in the traditional garb, covering not only her hair and face but also her hands.
Her current Facebook page lists her as Jamie Paulin, with a photo in which all that is visible are her eyes peering from slits in her full-face veil.
Last year, Ms. Paulin-Ramirez had told her aunt she wanted to study to become a doctor, and she signed up for nurse-practitioner courses. She took out new student loans of roughly $3,000 last fall, according to her mother and stepfather.
Her mother now believes she used that money to get to Ireland.
On Sept. 14, Ms. Paulin-Ramirez’s mother called Leadville police. She informed an officer that her daughter was missing and that she had switched the code on their joint bank account so that Ms. Holcomb-Mott couldn’t access it. She said her daughter had left for Denver on Friday, Sept. 11, to meet an unknown friend, was supposed to be back by Monday, but had not returned and was not answering calls or text messages.
Ms. Holcomb-Mott feared the little boy was “in training” to become a terrorist, according to Sgt. Saige Thomas of the Leadville police, who conducted the investigation.
Mr. Mott, a convert to Islam himself, says he went to Denver to find his stepdaughter but couldn’t track her down.
The police found Ms. Paulin-Ramirez’s car, a 2005 Pontiac Bonneville, at the Denver International Airport in the long-term parking lot.
Mr. Mott said that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents showed up at his door and questioned him, and took his stepdaughter’s computer. She had added a keyboard with Arabic keys, he said.
“Jamie took off just like JihadJane took off on her boyfriend,” Mr. Mott said. “We have been trying since September of last year to get her back here and get that baby back here.”
A few months before she disappeared, her stepfather says he confronted her: “What are you going to do, strap a bomb on and blow up something?” he asked her. He recalled that she responded: “If necessary, yes.”
“She never liked who she was,” her mother said. “She was always looking for something.”