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Death of CA girl after fight ruled homicide

Students and parents arrive past a memorial, left,  outside Willard Elementary School for student Joanna Ramos, 10, in Long Beach, Calif. on Monday Feb. 27,2012.  Ramos, who died Friday night after a fight with an 11-year-old in an alley near their elementary school underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot on her brain before her death, her sister said Monday. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Students and parents arrive past a memorial, left, outside Willard Elementary School for student Joanna Ramos, 10, in Long Beach, Calif. on Monday Feb. 27,2012. Ramos, who died Friday night after a fight with an 11-year-old in an alley near their elementary school underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot on her brain before her death, her sister said Monday. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- A 10-year-old girl who died following an after-school fight with an 11-year-old female student suffered head trauma in the case the coroner's office said Monday was a homicide.

Joanna Ramos, who would have turned 11 on March 12, underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot on her brain late Friday after she began vomiting and complained of a headache, said her older sister, 17-year-old Vanessa Urbina.

Joanna was unconscious by the time she arrived at the emergency room, but hospital staff revived her three times before she went into surgery for the blood clot, Urbina told The Associated Press.

"They did surgery on her brain because she had a blood clot, and after surgery the doctor said she was still alive, and then a few minutes later he comes back and tells us that her heart stopped and they couldn't bring her back," Urbina said, crying as she sat on the steps of Willard Elementary School near a memorial of flowers and balloons.

In the hospital, "She was covered up, you could only see her face," Urbina said.

Coroner's Lt. Fred Corral said Ramos died of blunt force trauma to the head, but he didn't immediately have further details about the injuries sustained by Ramos.

Long Beach police were expected to release a statement later Monday. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has not received the case, said Jane Robison, district attorney spokeswoman.

Joanna was pronounced dead at 9 p.m. Friday, about six hours after she and an 11-year-old girl had the fight in an alley near the school.

Family and friends who gathered outside the school Monday seeking answers received a letter from the principal, but there were more questions than answers about the circumstances leading to the fight and to Joanna's death.

There were seven witnesses to the fight, which lasted less than a minute, police have said. It didn't involve any weapons and no one was knocked to the ground.

Detectives have interviewed family and friends of both girls, but there is no indication that Joanna was bullied, police said.

Joanna returned to her after-school program after the fight, where her friend saw her with blood on her knuckles from wiping at a bloody nose, said Cristina Perez, the friend's mother.

Perez said her daughter, who is 10, heard about plans for the fight during recess earlier in the day and knew to stay away from the alley after school.

"We've just got to pay more attention to our kids too, not just dropping them off at the school. I'm always on my daughter, always," Perez, 30, said as she gathered with other concerned mothers outside the school Monday. "I tell her, `You see a fight (and) you stay away from it."'

Perez and other mothers outside the school said their children told them the fight was over a boy.

"They took off their backpacks, and they put their hair in a bun, and then that's when they said `go' and that's when they started hitting each other," Joanna's friend and classmate Maggie Martinez, who watched the fight, told KNBC.

Martinez and other friends said they tried to stop the fight, but were held back by boys who were watching and wanted it to continue.

Worried parents gathered at the school after dropping off their children to look at a memorial of flowers, balloons and drawings dedicated to Joanna and to read a letter distributed by the principal about the fight. A sheriff's deputy lingered in the background and a police car circled the block, monitoring the activity.

Mother Victoria Pyles said her daughter had started classes at the school last week after the family moved to the neighborhood. Her daughter likes the school, Pyles said, but now she isn't sure whether to leave her there.

"This is her third day here and this is happening and I'm just so confused at this moment, thinking should I take my daughter out of this school," Pyles said. "If this is what is going on, I don't like it. It's very scary."

Urbina, Joanna's sister, remembered her sibling as a happy child who liked to sing, dance and watch soap operas and loved having her hair curled by her older sister. She had asked Urbina to curl her hair for her birthday in two weeks, and had asked her parents to take the whole family to an amusement park to celebrate.

"She was so young for this to happen" Urbina said. "She was so happy and so many people loved her."

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Associated Press Writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.