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Local News

Son Arrested in Death of Lompoc Woman Found in La Habra

Gabriel Antonio Espinoza, 30, of Santa Maria is accused of murdering Emma Posadas-Espinoza

Gabriel Antonio Espinoza

The son of a Lompoc woman found dead amid suspicious circumstances in Orange County during the summer has been arrested in connection with her death.

Gabriel Antonio Espinoza, 30, of Santa Maria was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder with special circumstances Tuesday by La Habra police.

His mother, 58-year-old Emma Posadas-Espinoza, was found dead in La Habra on July 21.

A man walking a dog found the woman in foliage, with only the feet and a limited portion of the body appearing to be uncovered, according to police in the Orange County city.

Police initially said the woman’s white, four-door Acura sedan was missing.

However, it was found July 30 in the 600 block of North Curryer Street in Santa Maria after someone reported that the vehicle appeared to be abandoned, police confirmed in September.

The initial findings at the scene and preliminary autopsy were “inconclusive” regarding the cause of death. 

Last week, the Orange County Coroner's Office gave police the final autopsy results, which indicated the woman had died of asphyxiation. 

"Based on the information gathered in the investigation, which included search warrants and court orders, the La Habra Police Department was able to identify a suspect responsible for the homicide," police said in a news release.

At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, La Habra police arrested Espinoza at his Santa Maria residence with the assistance of Santa Maria police.

Posadas-Espinoza moved to Lompoc in 1989, and worked as a licensed clinical social worker with agencies including Head Start, the Community Action Commission and Community Health Centers.

Her son remained in custody in Orange County Jail where he is being held without bail.

He reportedly is scheduled to be arraigned Friday at the Orange County Central Justice Center.

After his mother went missing, Espinoza contacted Lompoc police but never filed a missing person's report last summer, La Habra police said.

Upon the discovery of the body last summer, Espinoza talked to KEYT/KCOY television reporter about his mother, describing her as a caring person and a mom who regularly showed up to support him when he played baseball as a youth and coached as an adult.

"That's my mom. I want that person, whoever it was, I forgive them, but it's just so hard," he said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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