Norma Patricia Esparza, 41, was accused of conspiring to kill 24-year-old Gonzalo Ramirez, with three others in spring of 1995 while she was a student at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
20-year-old Esparza went to a bar in her home city of Santa Ana after the alleged rape incident and pointed out the man she said raped her in her dorm room.
The next day, police found Ramirez’s dead body on the side of the road. he had been beaten to death and hacked with a meat cleaver.
Esparza, agreed to testify against her co-defendants for an anticipated six-year-sentence, the Orange County district attorney’s office said. Two years ago she took the plea deal for a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter. The original murder rap carried a possible life sentence if convicted, a risk which she was was unwilling to take , according to her attorney, Jack Earley, considering that she is married and has a young daughter. The court heard that though Esparza did not intend for Ramirez to be killed, she was not forthcoming about the slaying when police confronted her about it almost two decades ago.
Esparza who was born in Mexico, grew up in California. She attended the elite Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire on a scholarship.She later received a doctorate in psychology and worked as a consultant for the World Health Organization and as a professor in Switzerland.
Norma Patricia Esparza and her co-defendants
Norma Patricia Esparza was a 20-year-old student who reported a dorm rape to her then boyfriend, Gianni Van
Gianni Van, 43, was arrested in Costa Mesa and was charged with murder and conspiracy. Serving life in prison for the murder
The case went unsolved for years, but Esparza was finally arrested in 2012 on a trip to the U.S. She had been living in France and teaching in Switzerland.
Her co-defendants Van, 45, and Shannon Ray Gries, 43, were charged with felony murder in the commission of a kidnapping. A third suspect, Diane Tran, 45, of Costa Mesa, pled guilty in 2014 to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Tran’s husband, Kody Tran, who was also a suspect in the case, shot himself during a standoff with police.
Esparza claimed that her boyfriend Van was behind the murder, and that she was never a willing participant.
Norma Esparza and daughter Arianna
Norma Patricia Esparza and husband, renowned medical researcher Jorge Mancillas
She claimed that she was “dragged, pressured, bullied, intimidated” by Van on the night of the murder.
“It just hurts me so much that I had been raped, and here he (Van) is, instead of consoling me, he destroyed the rest of my life,” she told the “Today” show. “You know, the abuse was difficult, the rape was difficult, but dragging me through that night, it haunts me.”She said her boyfriend blamed her for not preventing the rape. He then forced her to marry him in an attempt to keep her quiet, she said.
Kody Tran, a suspect in the case, shot himself during a standoff with police.
Kody’s wife Diane Tran, 44, pled guilty in 2014 to voluntary manslaughter, sentenced to four years