Update: Norma Patricia Esparza was taken into custody for being non-cooperative with the prosecution on Nov. 21, 2013. Read The Journal’s latest coverage.
Webster University Geneva professor Norma Patricia Esparza, charged of murder with special circumstances, is cooperating with the police in their investigation, according to her legal adviser Peter A. Schey.
Esparza has pleaded not guilty in the charge against her.
Schey couldn’t comment on whether she was bringing any new information to the case.
“She is cooperating and she will continue to cooperate,” Schey said.
Robert Spencer, director of the Webster campus in Geneva, in an email, sent The Journal a personal statement for the university in which Esparza’s husband, Jorge Mancillas, defended Esparza.
“My wife, Dr. Patricia Esparza, has been unjustly charged with involvement in a murder that took place in Santa Ana, Calif., over 17 years ago,” Mancillas said in the statement. “She is innocent of the charge and has cooperated with the police and prosecutors investigating the crime. She fully expects to be vindicated when the investigation is completed.”
Esparza returned to Geneva to be with her husband and child. Esparza has also returned to work at Webster’s campus in Geneva but is not teaching this semester, said Spencer in an email.
Schey said Esparza was released on $300,000 bail and her pre-trial hearing is on Feb. 22. Schey said Esparza was able to leave the U.S. after she made a deal with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and posted her bail. The Journal contacted Esparza and her public defender, Isabel Apkarian, in regards to Esparza’s presence at her pre-trial hearing. The Journal received no response from Esparza or Apkarian.
The Feb. 22 pre-trial hearing will decide if the prosecution has enough evidence against Esparza to take the case to a jury. Schey said it is extremely unlikely the case will be thrown out at the pre-trial hearing, but he is confident Esparza will be found not guilty.
“I anticipate that she will ultimately not face any charges,” Schey said
Mike Murray, Orange County senior deputy district attorney of the Homicide Unit, is the prosecuting attorney. The Journal contacted Murray for comment and received no response from Murray himself.
Irvine (Calif.) police arrested Esparza in October in suspicion of murder with special circumstances as she stepped off a plane at Logan International Airport in Boston. She was on a layover to St. Louis for a Webster University-related meeting.
Esparza had been in the U.S. in 2007, 2008 and 2009. But new breaks in the case in 2012 led to her arrest upon landing.
Esparza and three others are charged with the 1995 murder of Gonzalo Ramirez in Santa Ana, Calif.
Esparza met Ramirez while visiting her sister in Santa Ana, Calif., in 1995. Esparza claims Ramirez sexually assaulted her, according to Schey. A press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s office states that in April of 1995 Esparza, along with her ex-boyfriend Gianni Anthony Van, Kody Tran and Shannon Gries, went to a bar where Esparza met Ramirez. The release states Van, Tran and Gries assaulted Ramirez, took him back to Tran’s auto shop and killed him.
The release also states a witness, who worked at the shop, came forward in 2012 and claimed Esparza was called back to the shop after the murder.
In 2012, the testimony of this new witness, along with more conclusive DNA evidence, led to the arrest of Esparza, according to the release.