New evidence, public apology in Janessa Ramirez murder case

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The man accused of killing 9-year-old Fresno girl Janessa Ramirez delivered his first public apology on Action News. (KFSN)

The man accused of killing 9-year-old Fresno girl Janessa Ramirez delivered his first public apology on Action News.

"Either if I did or I didn't do it, I truly want to apologize for the loss in this situation," Brian Cooks said in a message meant for Janessa' Ramirez's family.

Action News spoke to Cooks Wednesday as we discovered new details that could complicate the murder case against him. Cooks told us the new evidence makes him think he didn't kill Janessa, but he still wanted her family to know he's sorry for whatever role he played in her death.

Brian Cooks is the poster boy in the movement to get justice for Janessa. Police say the convicted felon fired one shot, accidentally killing the 9-year-old girl.

Investigators say Cooks confessed when he learned Janessa's mother had forgiven the killers. Eight months later, in a phone interview from jail, he told an Action News reporter that mercy still means a lot.

"I just want to say sorry to the family and I really appreciate that they forgave me, you know, if I did or if I didn't do it," Cooks said.

Cooks made no confessions Wednesday. In fact, he pointed to new ballistics testing as evidence he might not have killed Janessa. It was inconclusive as to whether the bullet came from his gun.

"With that testing done and if it was tied in, it would've been pretty much open and shut for the prosecution, but now this opens the door for the defense to argue 'it wasn't me who did it'," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

He says other evidence still makes this a strong case against Cooks.

Search warrants uncovered by Action News show Cooks fired in the direction of the laundromat where Janessa was standing with her mother. But police also believed Donte Hawkins fired four times at Cooks first, away from the girl. Investigators said Cooks' gun jammed after he fired one shot. And witnesses describe a sixth shot, also in Janessa's direction -- one that may have struck the sign for an Indian food and spices store.

And yet, neither Hawkins nor his alleged driver, Isaac Stafford, are charged in this case -- only Cooks.

"The fingers are just all getting pointed at me and I'm not the only one (involved)," Cooks said. "You know, I take responsibility for the actions that I took but at the same time, at the end of the day, I shouldn't have to take full responsibilities for everyone's actions."

Hawkins is in jail, though. A month after police released him on Janessa's case without any charges, they arrested him for attempted murder in another case. Cooks wonders if the gun used in that crime could be tied to Janessa's killing.

We also reached out to Janessa's family Wednesday. Her grandmother told us she planned to pray about the new information.

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