Suspects in 17-year-old killing arrested

Police announced this week the arrest of suspects they say are connected to the slaying of a man whose body was discovered in Irvine 17 years ago.

On April 16, 1995, Irvine police discovered the body of 24-year-old Gonzalo Ramirez, who had died from blows to the head.

Santa Ana police announced that they had arrested Gianni Anthony Van, Diane Tran and Norma Patricia Esparza. Suspect Shannon Ray Gries, whose last known address was in Colorado, remains a fugitive, police said.

Police said Ramirez left a Santa Ana bar in the early morning of April 16 with another man when a white 1980s van hit their vehicle from behind. One man got out of the car and hit Ramirez, police said, while another got out of the van and motioned he had a weapon. The passenger ran for help, and when he returned with a security guard, Ramirez had vanished, police said.

At 8:17, Ramirez's body was found wrapped in fabric on a dirt shoulder by the San Diego (405) Freeway near Sand Canyon Avenue, according to Santa Ana police.

Recent DNA evidence demonstrated Ramirez may have been taken to a Costa Mesa auto repair shop after the accident, and a witness recently interviewed by police said the alleged assailants met at the shop before and after the attack, police said.

Police said that in an interview with Esparza early in their investigation, she told police that Ramirez assaulted her at her dorm at Pomona College in Claremont weeks before his death.

Van, Tran and Gries face felony charges of murder and conspiracy to commit a crime with sentencing enhancements of kidnapping and lying in wait, court records show.

Esparza, who was arrested in October, faces charges of one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for kidnapping, police and court records show. She has pleaded not guilty to the charge and denied the enhancement, court records show.

Tran and Van are scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 21.

One suspect, Kody Tran, committed suicide in July during a standoff in Irvine, police said.

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