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published on July 15, 2016 - 9:03 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

(AP) — A former psychology professor was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for the 1995 killing of a man she says raped her while she was a Southern California college student.


Norma Patricia Esparza, 41, pleaded guilty in 2014 to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for the sentence in the death of Gonzalo Ramirez. She did not speak as she was sentenced with two co-defendants.

Esparza pointed out Ramirez at a bar in 1995 to former boyfriend Gianni Van and others who kidnapped and killed him, authorities said. His bloodied body was found by the side of a road in Irvine, but the case went cold for years.

Esparza was arrested in 2012 and sent to prison while visiting the United States from France. Born in Mexico, Esparza grew up in California, obtained a doctorate in psychology and worked as a consultant for the World Health Organization and as a professor in Switzerland.

Her case drew international attention and stoked an outcry from campus sexual assault victims’ advocates, who said Esparza’s arrest sent a chilling message to rape survivors.

Authorities charged four people with the death of Ramirez, who Esparza said raped her after she met him at a bar while she was a student at Pomona College.

Esparza pointed out Ramirez at the bar weeks later, prosecutors said. Van and two others followed him in a van and rear-ended him, attacked and kidnapped him, later hacking at his body with a meat cleaver, prosecutors said.

In 2013, Esparza’s husband, Jorge Mancillas, told reporters his wife had confided to Van about the rape and Van took matters into his own hands. She was later forced into a sham marriage with Van to prevent her from testifying against him as police began looking into the murder, Mancillas said.

Esparza was arrested after she and Van had divorced. After a jury trial, Van was sentenced last year to life without parole for the killing.

Esparza and co-defendant Diane Tran testified against Van in exchange for their plea deals. Tran was sent in prison for four years and freed based on time already served.

Another defendant, Shannon Gries, pleaded guilty in May to murder during a kidnapping. He was sentenced to 25 years to life.


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