LEADVILLE, Colo. – For the parents of Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, the news late Saturday that Irish police had released their daughter from custody did little to alleviate the question of how she may have become involved with suspects in a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist targeted by Islamic radicals.
When word of her release reached this mountain town, Paulin-Ramirez’s stepfather, George Mott, said it was “both good news and bad news.”
Mott and his wife, Christine, said they still could not reach their 31-year-old daughter and feared that she and her 6-year-old son, Christian, may still be involved with radical Islamists she had followed to Ireland last year.
Earlier Saturday, the Motts had described their daughter, a convert to Islam, as a lonely woman looking for acceptance. They were trying to explain how she became linked to a number of suspects arrested in an alleged plot to kill cartoonist Lars Vilks, whose 2007 drawing of the prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog outraged many Muslims.
Irish police have not identified Paulin-Ramirez by name but said that seven people were detained, including an American. Three others were released Saturday. It’s unclear whether Paulin-Ramirez’s release signals exoneration or if suspicions about her linger.
But what is clear, according to her parents, is that she long struggled to fit in. She had a hard time making friends, they said, but became even more isolated when she moved from Denver to this isolated, 10,000-foot-high town two years ago.
After several months, she found another, virtual community, one of Islamic extremists with whom she could trade messages via Facebook and MySpace. Always fascinated by foreign cultures, Paulin-Ramirez – who had previously been married to three Mexican men – mounted an image of a turbaned Arab on her computer as a screen-saver. She donned a hijab.
Her parents hoped the fascination was just an attempt to be noticed. “It was killing her – she couldn’t get a single person to come up to her,” George Mott said. That changed after her conversion.
“You’re blond-haired, blue-eyed and now you’re Muslim,” he said. “Everybody is going to want to know why.”
Among the people she chatted with online, her parents said, was Colleen R. LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane,” a 46-year-old Pennsylvanian who was charged last year with helping extremists target Vilks.
On Sept. 11, 2009, Paulin-Ramirez took her son to Ireland, where she stayed in a mosque and then married one of her online correspondents.
After she settled in Ireland, Paulin-Ramirez would call her parents occasionally.
On Monday, four days before her arrest, the Motts had their most recent conversation with Paulin-Ramirez. Christian got on the phone, George Mott said, and was eager to tell him something.
Mott said Christian told him he’d learned to shoot a gun and had his own sword and knife. “I’ve learned how to fight,” Mott said the boy said proudly.
Late last week, the FBI told the Motts that their daughter had been arrested.