Ramon Sosa’s life has changed since he discovered his wife tried to pay two men named Paco and John Boy $14,000 to murder him two summers ago.

Friends used to know Ramon as the owner of Woodlands Boxing and Fitness in The Woodlands, where he lived in the same house as a woman who wanted him dead. Now strangers come up to him in downtown Houston, where he moved last year, and ask him things like, “Aren’t you that guy who almost got murdered?”

“It’s amazing how much your life can change after something like that,” Ramon said in a phone interview with Free Press Houston. “So many things have happened to me since that time.”

He’s dating someone new and he doesn’t own a gym anymore, either. Instead, he’s working on a book that goes into detail about how he sidestepped his ex-wife’s plans to kill him by faking his own death in an undercover police sting. 

That happened in July 2015, when Ramon’s friend Mundo told him that he had overheard Maria Sosa talking about wanting to hire someone to murder her husband.

“He happened to walk in to the room when Lulu was having a conversation about it,” Ramon said, using Maria’s nickname. “She was talking to her daughter, something about killing people for money. Later in the evening, he pulled her to the side and asked her what was going on.”

Mundo knew that Lulu and Ramon had been having problems in their marriage. The couple were planning on getting a divorce and they had been fighting about how to divide up their things. Recording the conversation on his phone, Mundo asked Lulu if she had been talking about Ramon earlier.

“He made the sign of a pistol with his hand,” Ramon said. “Lulu told him yeah.”

Ramon said that’s when Mundo made “the decision of a lifetime.” He told Lulu that he knew two men who would kill Ramon for her, if she truly wanted to go through with it. She did.

Unfortunately for Lulu, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison last October, Mundo didn’t. Instead, he told Ramon what had happened. Ramon said he didn’t believe him at first, but the recording changed his mind.

“I told him to quit playing around, but he got real serious,” Ramon said. “If it wasn’t for him, I’d be dead.”

The two came up with a plan. They bought a track phone for Ramon to use and Mundo, still recording his conversations, met up with Lulu to give it to her. He told her to text the number and set up Ramon’s murder with Paco and John Boy, the two men he knew.

“That was just two names he came up with,” Ramon said. “It was actually me she was texting the whole time. I was playing my own hit man.”

Before he went to the police with what he knew, Ramon said he needed to make sure Lulu was serious about wanting to kill him. He told her in a text message that he’d need $200 to buy a gun. She agreed to pay the money, texting that the murder needed to happen ASAP.

“It was chilling to see that,” Ramon said.

Meanwhile, Ramon and Lulu were still staying together in their two story home — Ramon living on the bottom floor and Lulu on the second. The mood was tense. He said that despite having gotten ahead of Lulu’s plan to murder him, he was still worried. She wanted him dead before their divorce was finalized in August so she could still have access to his life insurance policy.

It was already late July and time was running out. What if Lulu had been working on another way to kill him that he didn’t know about?

“I slept with one eye open,” he said. “I was worried she had a backup plan.”

It was a good time to go to the police with the text messages and recorded conversations that Mundo and him had collected, so they brought what they had to Montgomery County Constable Precinct 3 in The Woodlands.

“They did their own investigation and interviewed both of us,” Ramon said. “They brought in the FBI, the state troopers, the Texas Rangers — they brought them all in. They knew she was for real; they said we had to act quickly.”

The first thing to do was understand how dedicated Lulu was to having Ramon killed. An undercover officer visited her and said he was one of the men she had been texting. He told Lulu he had come to talk about the price, but first he tried to give her a way out. Would she rather he just beat Ramon up, the officer asked.

“They let me hear the recording later on,” Ramon said. “She said ‘He’s better to me dead.’”

The officer told Lulu the murder would cost $14,000 and that he wanted cash up front. A couple days later they met again in an Academy parking lot in The Woodlands so she could pay.

Undercover officers were all around and every move Lulu made was recorded. She got cash out of an ATM and also handed over jewelry. It wasn’t enough, but she promised the undercover officer he could have Ramon’s truck and watch after he was dead.

To Ramon, it seemed like case closed. His wife had paid thousands of dollars to have him killed — what more evidence did the police need? But officers told him they wanted more.

“They called me in and said they wanted to talk to me about how they had come up with another plan,” Ramon said. “They said they felt strong about the case, but they wanted a sure thing. A slam dunk.”

The police wanted to fake Ramon’s death so they could to take a picture, show it to Lulu and see her reaction.

“A picture of me in a grave, with a bullet in my head,” Ramon said.

Chief Deputy Matthew Rodrigue, who runs the Precinct 3 office, called the strategy “creative policing.”

“It’s the way cops have been catching crooks forever,” Rodrigue said in an interview with FPH on Thursday about how the department faked Ramon’s death. “We went and bought some stuff — stuff they use for Halloween makeup — and we looked it up on YouTube. How to make gunshot wounds, like from Hollywood special effect videos.”

After painting a bullet wound on Ramon’s temple, officers used county equipment to dig a grave in the woods for Ramon to lie in. They showed him photographs of people who had been killed so he’d know how to position himself convincingly.

“I ain’t going to lie, I was afraid,” Ramon said. “I didn’t know what to think. They took me to the place where the grave was and put me in there in my underwear and took pictures of me.”

Afterward, law enforcement drove Ramon to a hotel hours away where he would stay for the next three days. No one knew where he was and he wasn’t allowed to leave his room. The sting was underway; Lulu couldn’t know that Ramon was still alive.

The undercover officer brought the photos to Lulu at home to show her the job was finished.

“She was so happy,” Ramon said, recalling the recordings he’d listened to. “She sounded so thankful. She was laughing and giggling, like she had hit the lotto and she could live happily ever after.”

The mood was different the next day. That’s when police officers visited Maria at the boxing gym where she was talking with her mother and daughter. They told her that Ramon had been reported missing and asked her if she knew where he was. When she said she didn’t know, they arrested her for solicitation of murder.

All that was two years ago, and Ramon can talk about it easily now; he’s mostly moved on from what happened. He hasn’t spoken with Maria since he made a statement during her 2016 sentencing (“She didn’t look at me,” he said), and he said he doesn’t think about what happened too much anymore.

Still, there are plenty of reminders, even beyond the people who recognize him in the street as that guy who almost got murdered.

The media is likely to come calling at any time, for one thing. That’s what happened earlier this month when The Daily Mail published a new article about Sosa that went viral, kicking off another round of public attention and media questions. The Houston Chronicle put Sosa on its 2017 list of remarkable local figures, TV news programs started poking around The Woodlands for more interviews and Ramon’s cycle of celebrity began all over again.

Some seem to be more okay with it than others.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office has an employee dedicated to answering questions about Ramon Sosa because the prosecutor who handled the case doesn’t want to answer any more questions about it. Ramon says Mundo won’t talk about what happened. Precinct 3 in The Woodlands answers questions as they come up.

“Do you have any idea why everyone’s interested in this again?,” Chief Deputy Rodrigue asked FPH during the interview with him on Thursday. “I don’t mind answering questions, but my phone has been ringing off the hook — 20/20, Dateline, you name it — for an old case from two years ago”

Ramon, for his part, is content with his celebrity.

“I’ve done all the national shows,” Ramon said. “Interviews all over the world, from South America to Japan. In Japan, it’s big over there. A lot of people follow it.”

Movie studios contact him, too, and he said he might agree to one of those projects eventually. But right now he’s working on the book. It doesn’t have a title yet, but he’s got a deal worked out with a place in New York. Ramon said he hopes it’ll bring some closure to what happened, and maybe help someone in a similar position.

“It’ll have all the details,” he said. “The final word. I’m just writing it down and sending it in, there’s a ghostwriter who’s writing four pages for every one that I write. I just want people to get something out of this. What happened to me was horrible, and if I can save a life, if someone is trying to kill someone and sees my story and sees that it’s not worth it, then that’s all I want.”