Psychology professor Norma Esparza was raped at her university in California at the age of 20. In an effort to seek revenge, Esparza, her then boyfriend, and two friends, followed her alleged rapist out of a bar one night; his body was discovered shortly after.
A psychology professor has pleaded guilty in a California courtroom to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter in the murder nearly 20 years ago of her alleged rapist.
Norma Esparza, 40, is one of four people accused of the 1995 killing of Gonzalo Ramirez, 24, whose body was found hacked to death with a meat cleaver on the side of a road in Orange County. A fifth suspect shot himself during a standoff with police in 2012.
Esparza, a professor at Webster University in Geneva, Switzerland, was arrested in the cold case murder two years ago after she re-entered the U.S. for an academic conference.
Before changing her plea, the wife and mother of a four-year-old daughter had been due to face trial for one felony count of special circumstance murder – a charge that if convicted carried a life sentence without parole.
She is now expected to be sentenced to six years in state prison and will testify against her co-defendants, announced the Orange County district attorney’s office on Friday.
Esparza had previously rejected a plea deal that would have handed her a three-year prison sentence.
‘The principle of what they’re asking me is to plead guilty to something that they know I am not responsible for,’ she said last November.
She told a grand jury that she never meant for Ramirez to be killed and that her ex-boyfriend, Gianni Van, forced her to point him out after she told him about the rape.
Esparza’s attorney, Jack Earley, said his client, who is married and has a young daughter Arianna, was unwilling to risk a life sentence if convicted of murder.
Though Esparza did not intend for Ramirez to be killed, he said, she was not forthcoming about the slaying when police confronted her about it almost two decades ago.