Published March 13, 2010
LEADVILLE, Colorado – Before her daughter disappeared last fall, Christine Mott recalls that the 31-year-old who had been held in connection with an alleged assassination plot announced she had converted to Islam and told her family they'd go to hell if they didn't follow in her steps.
Jamie Paulin-Ramirez also began talking about Jihad with her Muslim stepfather and spent most of her time online as she withdrew from her family, Mott said.
"We were enemies," Christine Mott said. "We couldn't even speak to each other."
Last year, on Sept. 11, Paulin-Ramirez left Leadville, Colorado, an old silver mining town west of Denver that was Colorado's second-largest city during its heyday. She took her 6-year-old son with her, her mother said.
A U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Saturday that Paulin-Ramirez had been detained in Ireland in connection with an alleged plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had offended many Muslims.
Irish police said later Saturday that they had released without charge an American woman, who they didn't identify, and three others arrested in Ireland over an alleged plot to assassinate the cartoonist, Lars Vilks.
Paulin-Ramirez's arrest is one of four developments in the past week that have involved Americans in alleged terror plots abroad.
Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn appeared in a video, Sharif Mobley of New Jersey tried to escape his detainment in Yemen, and Colleen LaRose, who allegedly went by the name "Jihad Jane" to recruit others online to kill Vilks, was named in a federal terror indictment.
Smoking as she sat on her living room couch in Leadville, Christine Mott said she hadn't eaten in days. The 59-year-old described her daughter as a troubled single mother who had the "mentality of an abused woman" and who, in trying to escape her loneliness, may have spiraled into the depths of Islamic extremism.
Mott told The Associated Press that she learned of her daughter's arrest in the case from the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies.
Denver FBI officials said Saturday they couldn't confirm that the FBI had contacted Mott about the case.
Paulin-Ramirez told her family after she left in September that she went to Ireland with her 6-year-old son and married an Algerian whom she met online, Mott said.
Before abruptly leaving Colorado, Paulin-Ramirez had been a straight-A nursing student and had worked at a clinic in Edwards, about 40 miles west of Leadville, her mother said. She moved to Leadville from Denver six years ago. Phone calls to the clinic in Edwards went unanswered Saturday.
Mott said her daughter told her family during Easter last year that she converted to Islam, and renamed her son. Mott said her daughter was teaching him to hate Christians as she grew more distant from her family.
When she discussed jihad with her stepfather, George Mott, who has been a Muslim for more than 40 years, she told him "she'd strap a bomb for the cause," Christine Mott said.
She said she believes her daughter was lonely and "got sucked in" and brainwashed by other people.
"To go blow somebody up?" said Paulin-Ramirez's mother, who is not Muslim. "That's never been Islam."
Growing up, Paulin-Ramirez was "the kid in the class everyone picked on and made fun of," Mott said. She was married three times before she left for Ireland, and her first husband used to beat her, she said.
Her second husband, the 6-year-old's father, was an illegal immigrant from Mexico and was deported years ago, Mott said.
Paulin-Ramirez liked going on fishing and camping trips but grew distant before her departure, Mott said. She spent much of her time on the computer, she said.
"I'd yell at her, 'Get off the damn computer, do something with your son," Mott said.
The FBI seized the desktop computer in late September but didn't tell the family what they found, George Mott said.
George Mott said the family had not been in touch with Paulin-Ramirez since news of her release and did not know where she might be or if her son was with her.
"That baby is my heart, he is my reason to breathe," Christine Mott said crying, later recalling her weekly phone conversations with her grandson. Her last phone call with him was Monday.
"When we talk," she recalled, "We give each other hugs and kisses on the phone," she said, putting her arms across her chest.
During a recent phone call, Christine Mott said, her grandson told her that "all Christians will burn in hellfire."
But during another phone call, her grandson was excited to hear about a new kitten at the Motts' home in Leadville.
"When I told him about that he said name the kitten my name, Christian," Christine Mott said. "He knows who he is. I don't care how many times they call him this Muslim name, he knows his name is Christian."
Among the people Paulin-Ramirez had also communicated with online was a man from Pakistan who told her he wanted to come to the U.S. to learn how to fly, the Motts said.
"She lost her mind," Christine Mott said. "I told her, 'That should be a red flag right there."'
Christine Mott said Ramirez began calling her 6-year-old son "Walid," or "Wahid."
Paulin-Ramirez grew up in Blue Springs, Missouri, and few people in Leadville appeared to know her. The mayor of Leadville, Bud Elliott, said Saturday that he knew the Motts casually but wasn't well acquainted with Pailin-Ramirez.
"She's a lady that appears to have had a very sad and troubled life," Elliott said.