SoCal woman gets 6 years in prison for killing man she claims raped her

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The former psychology professor gained a following over the years--supporters who believed she should have been treated not as a murder suspect-but as a rape victim. (KABC)

Dr. Patricia Esparza chose not to speak at her sentencing in a Santa Ana courtroom.

"I think what she was looking at now is she just wants to get this behind her," said defense attorney Jack Earley.

The former psychology professor gained a following over the years from supporters who believed she should have been treated not as a murder suspect, but as a rape victim.

She pleaded guilty in 2014 to killing 24-year-old Gonzalo Ramirez. But she said she was a victim on March 26, 1995 - then a 20-year-old Pomona College student-when he raped her.

Testimony, however, given by a doctor and nurse she visited the next day, showed Esparza told them she had unprotected sex, and she did not report a sexual assault.

On April 15, 1995, prosecutors said Esparza pointed out Gonzalo at a Santa Ana bar to her former boyfriend Gianni Van and Shannon Gries.

Gries, Van and Cody Tran, who died before trial, kidnapped Ramirez after rear-ending his vehicle and forcing him to pull over. They then brought him to Tran's shop, Accurate Transmission in Costa Mesa, where they met Tran's wife, Diane. Ramirez was tied up, tortured, hacked with a meat cleaver and murdered. His body was dumped on the side of a road in Irvine.

Ramirez's three brothers attended the sentencing and had the prosecutor read a statement about how their brother's murder has been agonizing for their family.

"It torments us to think that each stab, each hack and blow he received while being tied without being able to defend himself," said Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray, as he read the Ramirez's statement.

Van, 46, was found guilty of murder last year and received life in prison without parole.

Diane Tran, 47, Gries, 45, and 41-year-old Esparza negotiated plea deals.

Tran walked out of court having already served four years.

"God knows I would never have willingly been part of any murder. It's not in me," Gries told the court before sentencing. "Had I known, I would have either stopped it or died trying."

"Shannon Gries was one of the main perpetrators and was involved in the conspiracy to kidnap and to kill Gonzalo Ramirez", said Murray.

Gries' wife, Adrienne, tearfully said, "Please know Shannon's family are all so very sorry for what happened, and we do acknowledge your grief," as she turned to look at the Ramirez family, seated behind her in the courtroom. "We pray every single day you find peace and closure."

Gries received 25 years to life in prison.

Esparza was living in France with her husband and daughter and teaching in Switzerland before her arrest in 2012, when she returned to the U.S. on a trip. Her attorney said she took a plea deal - 6 years - for a reason.

"I think she came to the realization that being a mother was the most important thing for her," said Earley.

Esparza's husband and young daughter remain in France. The court heard how her husband was battling stage-four cancer.
Related Topics:
newscold casemurderrapetrialSanta AnaOrange CountyClaremontLos Angeles County
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