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Santa Ana 1995 murder case: Last suspect arrested

Top row, left-right: Norma Esparza, Gianni Van; Bottom row, left-right: Diane Tran, Kody Tran, Shannon Gries
December 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Another suspect in a cold case murder in Orange County has been arrested, authorities said.

Shannon Gries surrendered to Santa Ana police. He is the last of five suspects connected to the murder of Gonzalo Ramirez in Santa Ana in 1995. Three others, Patricia Esparza, Gianni Van and Diane Tran, were recently arrested.

Police said a then 21-year-old Esparza met Ramirez in a nightclub. She allegedly later told her ex-boyfriend, Van, that Ramirez assaulted her.

The couple, along with friends Kody Tran, his wife Diane Tran, and Gries, waited for Ramirez to leave the nightclub. They allegedly then followed Ramirez and bumped his truck, forcing him to pull over to inspect the damage.

Investigators said the plan had been to kidnap Ramirez and bring him to Kody Tran's transmission shop in Coast Mesa. But they say at some point it changed to murder.

Detectives started honing in on Esparza and Van with the help of phone records and DNA evidence, but then the investigation hit a wall when the suspects married each other. Esparza was not obligated to testify against her husband. The case stalled for 15 years until Esparza filed for divorce from Van, got re-married and moved to France.

Detectives caught a break in October when Esparza, a doctor who had been a professor of psychology working for Webster University in Geneva, Switzerland, flew to Boston for work and was arrested.

Kody Tran committed suicide in July during a standoff with police in Irvine.


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