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Professor to stand trial in 1995 slaying of alleged rapist

Professor to stand trial in 1995 slaying of alleged rapist
Norma Esparza closes her eyes as her husband, Dr. Jorge Mancillas, addresses the media outside Orange County Superior Court (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A psychology professor accused of setting up the 1995 slaying of a man she said had raped her has been ordered to stand trial in Orange County.

Norma Patricia Esparza, who grew up in Santa Ana and went on to become a respected professor in Europe, was arrested in the 19-year-old case in 2012 but had been free on bail and living in Europe where she was teaching in Geneva, when a judge revoked the bail last year.

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Esparza is accused of helping set up the slaying of a man she said raped her when she was a college sophomore. She was ordered to stand trial following a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Two others, Gianni Anthony Van and Shannon Gries, were also accused and are expected to face trial later this year. A third suspect, Diane Tran, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in January and is expected to testify in both trials. Another suspect, Kody Tran, killed himself in a standoff with police in 2012.

Prosecutors say Esparza and the others went to a Santa Ana bar in April 1995 so that she could point out her alleged rapist.

Hours later, Gonzalo Ramirez was found beaten and hacked to death with a meat cleaver. Prosecutors say Esparza conspired to commit the killing, though she did not actually carry it out.

Esparza's case has mobilized the support of thousands say she is a rape victim who is being unfairly victimized for a murder she did not commit.

Esparza is set to be arraigned in Orange County Superior Court on March 11.

Twitter: @PalomaEsquivel

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