SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A woman facing a murder charge and fighting to remain free on bail says prosecutors have changed their story after she cooperated with their investigation.
Norma Esparza denies taking part in the 1995 revenge killing of Gonzalo Ramirez — a Santa Ana man she says raped her.
Esparza, a university professor who now lives in France, is scheduled to appear before a Santa Ana judge Thursday, when prosecutors are expected to ask a judge to revoke her bail before she goes to trial for first-degree special circumstances murder.
Esparza claims prosecutors originally told her she was not the target of the investigation. But now that authorities have been able to secure indictments against three others, she says, she’s being pressured to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
“I collaborated with them this entire year and they’re still pressing charges, knowing very well that I didn’t have anything to do with it,” she said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“Whatever the charges are that they’re asking me to plead guilty for, it’s essentially something that I cannot accept because it would essentially be a lie…. Now that they have all the information to move with their case and build their case, now they’ve decided to put pressure and ask me to accept a guilty plea. And that’s going to be determined tomorrow,” she said.
Esparza declined to discuss specifics of the plea deal.
She blames the crime on her ex-husband, and says the other suspects facing prosecution told her that Ramirez had been roughed up but was alive.
“He gathered a couple of his friends and ultimately found the man who had raped me and kidnapped him and beat him up, and I later found out through authorities that he had been killed,” she said.
Prosecutors, however, say there is evidence Esparza and others conspired to kill Ramirez.
If convicted of murder, Esparza, who lives in France with her husband and 4-year-old daughter, faces the possibility of life without parole. She said she fears being separated from her daughter if she’s taken into custody Thursday.
Orange County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Susan Schroeder would not elaborate on the deal prosecutors have offered her.
“It’s not unusual for criminal defendants who are charged with a crime to deny responsibility for it. We see it all the time. I don’t really want to discuss what deal she’s been offered. That would be inappropriate,” Schroeder said.
“But she has a choice to make whether she wants to take responsibility as to what happened in that case.”