| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES May 8 Charles Ramsey, the Cleveland
dishwasher who became an overnight sensation for his street-wise
poise under the media spotlight after helping save three women
from an alleged decade-long kidnapping ordeal, has won a
shout-out from McDonald's and legions of fans on social media.
Ramsey responded to cries from Amanda Berry and helped get
her away from a neighbor's house on Monday. He also got on the
phone with emergency responders, actions that police say led to
the rescue of two other women and a child from the home and
could earn Ramsey reward money.
Ramsey, 43, has had brushes with the law in the past.
In 1993, he was convicted of receiving stolen property and
received a one-year prison sentence, said JoEllen Smith,
spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Corrections. In 2003, he
was convicted of domestic violence, for which he served a
nine-month sentence, she said.
A court document from the 2003 case posted on the news
website The Smoking Gun said Ramsey was arrested in Cleveland
after assaulting his wife and that he had prior domestic
The woman, who is listed on Facebook as Rochelle Paschal and
also by the last name Dukes, told The Smoking Gun she was now on
an "okay basis" with Ramsey but that the abuse led her to file
for divorce from him in 2003 while he was in prison.
Paschal did not respond to a Facebook message seeking
comment, and she could not be reached by telephone.
On her Facebook page on Wednesday, Paschal wrote that people
"do change and you shouldn't hold the past against someone."
"The (main) thing is Charles Ramsey did a good deed and those
girls are safe is that not the most important thing?" she wrote.
A voice-mail system for Ramsey was full on Wednesday and he
could not be reached for comment. Mitchell Yelsky, who was
Ramsey's attorney in the 2003 case, said he remembered him as a
"great guy to work for."
"And now he's Cleveland's hero and he's the hero of these
three women and the child, so whatever he did in the past he's
redeemed for his heroic actions on Monday," Yelsky said. He did
not elaborate on details of the case.
Ramsey's interview on Monday evening with local television
reporters propelled him into the spotlight and was given the
auto-tune treatment - when speech is digitally given a melody -
with a backing music track, in a parody video that has been seen
over 400,000 times on YouTube.
In the same interview, Ramsey mentioned he was eating a
McDonald's burger when he heard Berry's screams, which
led the restaurant chain to say in a tweet on Tuesday, "Way to
go Charles Ramsey - we'll be in touch."
In interviews with ABC and CNN, Ramsey said he was not a
hero. He told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday he was "having
trouble sleeping" at the thought of having been a neighbor to
Ariel Castro, who is accused of holding the three women and a
child captive inside his house.
"See, up until yesterday, the only thing that kept me from
losing sleep was the lack of money," Ramsey said.
Ramsey was the first person cast into the spotlight, but
another neighbor of Ariel Castro, Angel Cordero, said in
television interviews that he was the first one, not Ramsey, to
arrive at the door in response to Berry's screams.
"I pulled the door but it was locked with a chain, so I
tried to open the door but I couldn't, so I had to give it a few
kicks," he told CNN in Spanish.
Hodge's restaurant, where Ramsey works as a dishwasher,
produced a printed T-shirt featuring his face and the words
"Cleveland's Hero," with the proceeds dedicated to the three
The interest in the shirt, sold over the restaurant's
website, caused the site to crash on Wednesday, said the owner,
Scott Kuhn. Kuhn said Ramsey had worked there for 10 months,
adding he was a "character and he can get you to laugh, and I
Ramsey's father, Charles Ramsey, 75, said in a phone
interview that his son in coming to the aid of Berry had acted
out the values of helping others that he instilled in him.
"I'm very proud and I'm also not surprised," the elder
In the 1990s, Ramsey served in the Army for four years, his
father said. Ramsey's family declined to comment on his past
Robert Thompson, who lectures on pop culture at Syracuse
University, said Ramsey's sudden fame, while it might distract
from the suffering of the three women, was unavoidable in the
McDonald's received some criticism for its public support
"The idea of kind of going after a breaking news, I don't
know, product endorsement while the news is still breaking, yeah
I think there are a lot of people who would consider that kind
of crass," Thompson said.
Asked about such criticism, McDonald's spokeswoman Danya
Proud said in a statement that "out of respect for the victims
involved, as well as Mr. Ramsey, both McDonald's and the local
franchisees will personally be reaching out to Mr. Ramsey
directly as we said we would in our tweet."
Officials were still discussing how to distribute the reward
money for the missing women, Cleveland deputy police chief Ed
Tomba told reporters on Wednesday.
"Mr. Ramsey deserves something, a lot of credit and he is a
true key to this case," Tomba said.