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Professor taken into custody in 1995 slaying of her alleged rapist

November 21, 2013|By Paloma Esquivel

A European professor was taken into custody Thursday in an 18-year-old cold case in which she is accused of helping set up the murder of a man she claimed raped her while she was a college sophomore.

Patricia Esparza, 39, was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately following a brief hearing inOrange County Superior Court.

Prosecutor Scott Simmons said he offered Esparza a plea deal that would require her to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and be sentenced to three years in prison. She declined the deal. She had previously pleaded not guilty.

Simmons said the case would now go to trial.

"This is an incredible injustice," Esparza's husband, Jorge Mancillas, said after the hearing. "I guess in Orange County it doesn't count to be innocent."

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Esparza is facing trial with three others in the slaying of Gonzalo Ramirez, who was beaten and hacked with a meat cleaver and then dumped alongside a road in Irvine in 1995. Authorities contend that Esparza did not participate in the actual kiling, but had pointed the man out to a group of acquaintances and identified him as her assailant.

Esparza says she was forced by an aggressive ex-boyfriend to identify her rapist and then conceal his crime for nearly two decades.

Esparza, 39, is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder during the commission of a kidnapping.

Esparza had been free on $300,000 bond until her bail was revoked Thursday.

Her ex-boyfriend, Gianni Anthony Van, and two others, Shannon Gries and Diane Tran, were also charged. All three have pleaded not guilty. A fourth suspect, Kody Tran, died in a shootout with police last year.

On Wednesday, Esparza stood with her husband outside the courthouse in Santa Ana to tell her side of the story. Her 4-year-old daughter clung to her waist as she spoke. She said she was a victim, not only of rape, but of sexual abuse since she was a child.

Until her arrest, Esparza's story had seemed a slice of the American dream. An immigrant who came to Santa Ana from Mexico as a small child, her life forever changed when she obtained a scholarship to attend the elite Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and then Pomona College.

When she was home in Santa Ana for the weekend in March 1995, she decided to go to the El Cortez nightclub, where she met Ramirez, according to court records.

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