A Costa Mesa man and his brother were charged Tuesday with murder in the commission of a kidnapping after police said that DNA evidence linked them to a burned female body found in Irvine.
Gabino Valdivia-Guzman, 31, and his brother Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, 24, of Santa Ana, were arraigned in custody in Orange County Superior Court Tuesday on special circumstances murder charges.
If convicted, they face a minimum sentence of life in prison without parole.
Gabino Valdivia-Guzman has pleaded not-guilty and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing next month. His brother had not yet entered a plea Tuesday night.
According to Irvine police, Gabino Valdivia-Guzman was driving his van through Santa Ana in September 2009 when he picked up a prostitute.
The prostitute didn't see his brother, Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, in the back seat when she first got in, panicking when she spotted him, said Irvine Police Lt. Barry Aninag.
She tried to escape and the younger brother allegedly attacked her, beating her in the face and neck and then strangling her, according to the prosecutors.
One of the brothers headed to the 1800 block of Kettering, a commercial area north of John Wayne Airport near Red Hill Avenue and Alton Parkway.
The brothers discarded the body in an empty parking lot, dousing the remains in gasoline and setting them on fire, Aninag said.
Employees in the area found the body the next morning and called police.
Authorities have still not identified the body, which was mostly burned, but did find DNA from the attacker lodged under the fingernails, prosecutors said.
The county's crime lab got a DNA match Nov. 5 to Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, who was convicted of domestic violence in 2009, and had to submit a DNA sample to the court, according to prosecutors.
Police arrested him in a Santa Ana shopping center Saturday. After his arrest, police linked his brother to the murder as well and arrested him, prosecutors said.
Investigators have not found the van used on the night of the murder, Aninag said.
Irvine police are still seeking the public's help in identifying the victim. She is described as a black woman, 17 to 26, 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-1, and weighing 152 pounds. She wore size 10 Glaze brand shoes that were new or rarely worn.
The Valdivia-Guzman brothers are being held in lieu of $1 million bail. Immigration authorities have placed a hold on Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman for possible violations and are looking into his brother as well, officials said.
Anyone who has information about the victim is asked to call Irvine police Det. Vicky Hurtado at (949) 724-7194 or supervising Dist. Atty. Investigator Helen Moreno at (714) 347-8492.