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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 5:22 pm | Fair 62º


Santa Maria Man Convicted of Killing Mother, Who Lived in Lompoc

Gabriel Espinoza
Gabriel Espinoza

An Orange County Superior Court jury on Friday found a Santa Maria man guilty of murdering his mother and dumping her body in La Habra more than two years ago.

The jury reached the verdict in the case of Gabriel Espinoza, 32, after a trial that lasted more than four weeks.

He was convicted of killing of his mother, Emma Posadas-Espinoza, 58, of Lompoc.

Since her body was found in a city located in Orange County city, the trial was conducted there. 

The body was discovered on July 21, 2014, behind a carport in a residential area, according to the La Habra Police Department.

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

However, it was found July 30, 2014, on the 600 block of North Curryer Street in Santa Maria after someone reported that the vehicle appeared to be abandoned, police confirmed weeks after the discovery.

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

The defendant entered his mother's Lompoc home early July 17 and killed Posadas-Espinoza, who died of "asphyxiation due to severe chest compression," according to Orange County District Attorney's Office.

He then moved his mom's body into her car, and drove south to La Habra, approximately 175 miles away. 

Senior Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino, who led the prosecution team, said the victim's blood was found in the trunk, and the son's DNA was located in the car although he denied driving it, according to an Orange County Register story on closing arguments

Prosecutors alleged the son killed his mother to obtain her life insurance and savings.

However, defense attorney Frederick Fascenelli said his client did not know the woman's financial worth.

Instead, he said, the victim was having an affair with the husband of a friend, who worked as an administrator at a prison and had access to hire someone to kill the Posadas-Espinoza , the Orange County Register reported.

Espinoza originally was charged with first-degree murder plus a special circumstance that the killing was for financial gain. However, jurors did not find special circumstance to be true.

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 has remained incarcerated in Orange County Jail since his arrest in December 2014, when he was taken into custody at his Santa Maria residence.

He is scheduled to be sentenced June 2, and faces a maximum of 25 years to life in state prison, Orange County officials 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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