They made for a striking young couple - the white hip-hop DJ and the fashionable Indian woman who loved to dance. They had friends at nightclubs across Baltimore and on the online community MySpace, where they both posted party photos and clever descriptions of themselves.
The three-year relationship of Thomas Ryan Jr., known as DJ Tommy Ryan, and Anuradha Ramasamy - Anu to her friends - had its ups and downs. They shared an apartment in Remington, but Ryan moved out when they broke up early last year. Months later, they reconciled and were again attending parties together.
On May 28, 2006, a day after another argument, Ryan found 26-year-old Ramasamy dead in her apartment, a curling iron cord wrapped around her neck. Ryan says that the cord was strung through a ceiling fan in her bedroom, that he pulled her body down, that it was a suicide.
Within about a week, Ryan was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. The trial, which Ryan chose to be heard by a judge instead of a jury, is set to begin today in Baltimore Circuit Court. The case, it appears from court documents, will hinge upon whether Ryan's story about how he found his girlfriend's body is true - or whether it's a cover for a killing.
At a pretrial hearing Friday, Ryan, 29, took the witness stand and told how, after finding the body, he had run out of the apartment and asked a neighbor to call 911.
"I was hysterical," he said. "I had a complete breakdown from what I saw."
To police and Assistant State's Attorney Brian Fish, the trial prosecutor, the medical examiner's report, which calls Ramasamy's death a homicide and says the condition of her body did not match up with Ryan's story, is convincing evidence. Ryan's defense attorney says he plans to call "expert witnesses concerning the suicide." His attorney says he also plans to call alibi witnesses for Ryan.
Other details from the autopsy and the crime scene, such as a profane phrase scratched into Ramasamy's forearm, drugs in her system and a note left behind, are a mystery for now.
A graphic artist, Ramasamy designed Web sites, including one for Eden's Lounge, a Mount Vernon club where Ryan worked. Her MySpace profile says she is a college graduate and lists Malaysia, Louisiana and Baltimore as her "hometowns."
"I love my family, friends, and animals. And I wanna be a star. Any questions, meet me on the dancefloor," she wrote on the site.
In interviews shortly after Ryan was arrested and after his court appearance last fall, some of her friends said they did not want to talk.
But they spoke briefly of Ramasamy's sparkling personality and confirmed she authored the MySpace page. Since her death, the page has become a tribute, with her friends still posting messages to her almost every day.
One of her best friends, Colleen K. Broersma, wrote in a statement e-mailed this weekend to a reporter, "While her loss is still devastating to so many, I know how fortunate I was to have her in my life. I don't think any words I could say would ever do her justice. She was like a sister to me. And I miss her."
Ryan was a chef and the Saturday night DJ at Eden's Lounge. The Pennsylvania native has an associate's degree from the Baltimore International College School of Culinary Arts, according to his police statement. He also spun at Sky Lounge, a Federal Hill club popular with break dancers, and on Sundays at Good Love Bar in Canton.
His friend Andrew T. Stephenson, who has known him for about seven years, said Ryan's "life was music."
"He's a fantastic person - very outgoing," Stephenson said yesterday. "Everybody loved Tommy. He was the life of the party. He was always happy to see you. He always had a good time and always had a good story to tell you."
Like Ramasamy, Ryan had a MySpace profile. In the days after her death, friends posted supportive messages of condolence. When he was arrested, the messages became angry and profane. The profile has since been switched to a private mode.
Ryan's attorney, Stephen R. Tully, said Ryan has maintained contact with many friends, who have helped him cope. Since his June 5 arrest, he has been held without bail.
"He has the horrendous experience of being in Baltimore City jail," Tully said. "He is suffering as a result of the loss [of his girlfriend] and from being in jail. He has never been locked up before."
In an interview at Baltimore police headquarters the day he found his girlfriend's body, Ryan gave his account of Ramasamy's last day. The transcript notes that he cried as he gave his statement.
He told police, according to a transcript of the interview in the court file, that they'd had an argument, even though they had recently begun dating again after two months apart.
"It started just about us getting back together, starting some silly relationship stuff," he told police about the argument.
About 9 a.m. May 27, he said, "I left, and that was the last time."
The two exchanged phone messages throughout the day, he told police. About midnight May 28, Ramasamy left him one, he told police, and he called her back at 4 a.m. and several times after that.
By that afternoon, he told police, he was worried enough to go to her apartment. He used his keys to get inside, he told police. Two female friends that he had called arrived at Ramasamy's apartment moments later, but after Ryan had found the body.
Detectives asked about Ramasamy's personality. He told them that "she gets depressed every now and then" and that "she tears herself up pretty good with her problems." But, he said, he never suspected she would kill herself.
Police say she didn't.
The medical examiner's report shows the 5-foot-6-inch woman had two parallel cord marks around her neck and that her blood had settled in the front of her body. Those findings, the medical examiner wrote, are inconsistent with someone who died hanging upright.
But the report also notes the presence of alcohol and cocaine. And the report includes a photograph of the profane phrase that was scratched into the inside of her left forearm.
A police report notes that Ramasamy's apartment was in disarray when her body was found and that a mirrored mannequin lay broken on the dining room floor. Pieces were found near Ramasamy's body, the report states.
Another mystery is a handwritten digressive poem of sorts found in Ramasamy's apartment. A copy of it is in the court file. It begins:
"My track is long, steady ... Don't stab me with your blunt knife. I decide the cut that bleeds ... "
Later: "My heart weighs a ton of bricks, Love is dead done."
At Friday's pretrial hearing, friends of Ryan sat together with his parents behind the defense table. Ramasamy's relatives and friends sat in another section.
The hearing was to determine whether Ryan's tape-recorded statement to police was given voluntarily. Police did not read him his Miranda rights because, one homicide detective testified, the death was thought to be a suicide. Homicide detectives also investigate suicides.
Ryan testified that he did voluntarily talk to police. But immediately after giving them a taped statement, he said, one detective "started accusing him" and told him he could not leave police headquarters. He was not arrested and left that evening.
Circuit Judge Paul E. Alpert ruled the statement is admissible. Testimony is to begin today.