After 21 years, dad RAMON ESPARZA RIOS will soon be on trial for the murder of his 12-year-old son, the boy's mother, and a nephew....
Daughter to testify against father in slaying of mother, brother, relative
Father could face life
By VIRGINIA HENNESSEY
Herald Salinas Bureau
Posted: 06/29/2011 01:32:49 AM PDT
Updated: 06/29/2011 08:30:35 AM PDT
The daughter of a former South County ranch foreman is expected to testify this week against her father, who is accused of killing her mother, brother and a relative before fleeing to Mexico in 1990.
Ramon Esparza Rios, 61, faces life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted of the murders of his son Luis, 12; his wife, Concepcion Esparza, 23; and her nephew, Jose Luis Parra Hernandez, 23.
Jury selection began Monday in a trial that is expected to last two weeks.
The star witness will be "Jane Doe 18," Esparza Rios' oldest daughter, who was in the home when the shooting occurred and, with her 17-year-old brother, was left to raise four younger siblings.
The defendant allegedly fled to Mexico and lived under an assumed name until last year when he was arrested on unrelated charges in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico.
Police there compared his prints to an arrest warrant the U.S. Department of Justice secured in Mexico and notified U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Yuma, Ariz., that their suspect was in jail across the border.
Mexico extradited Esparza Rios to California with the assurance of the Monterey County District Attorney's Office it would not seek the death penalty.
According to testimony at his preliminary hearing, Esparza Rios and his large family lived in a mobile home on the Silva Ranch outside King City, where he was the irrigation foreman.
On Jan. 6, 1990, he got home to find his wife drinking with her nephew. His daughter told investigators her father joined them for a beer, but within 20 minutes an argument broke out.
The girl heard her father hitting her mother, ran into the living room and found him with a gun. She told him to put the gun away and went back to her room, then heard gunshots.
From the hallway, the girl saw her younger brother had been hit in the head by a bullet that passed through his bedroom wall. She screamed, prompting her father to enter the room. Her father cried that he had killed his son, she told investigators, and ran off and left in his truck.
She went into the living room where she found her mother's and Parra Hernandez's bodies. According to testimony, Concepcion Rios was shot several times and her nephew was shot twice in the back. The boy died at Mee Memorial Hospital.
Esparza Rios initially told investigators that his gun went off by accident as he passed it to the nephew, who he was suspicious of because he had not initially recognized him. Distraught that he had killed his son, he said, he ran into the kitchen, where his wife came at him with "something shiny." Thinking it was a knife, he shot her in self-defense, he said. Then he shot the nephew in a fit of rage as he ran out the door, he told investigators.
Klopfenstein, prosecutor Steve Somers and Judge Pamela Butler used a jury questionnaire Monday to weed out potential jurors who had cause to balk at serving on a jury for two weeks. The remaining pool returned to the courtroom for questioning early Tuesday.