A jury found a Santa Maria man guilty of murdering his mother and dumping her body in La Habra more than two years ago.
The Orange County Superior Court jury reached the verdict Friday 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 for financial purposes.
The body was discovered July 21, 2014, behind a carport in a residential area, according to the La Habra Police Department.
Though police initially believed the woman’s four-door Acura sedan was missing, it was found July 30, 2014, on the 600 block of North Curryer Street in Santa Maria after someone reported a vehicle that appeared to be abandoned, police confirmed weeks after the discovery.
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After his mother went missing, Espinoza contacted Lompoc police, but he did not file 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 the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
He then moved his mother’s body into her car and drove south to La Habra, which is approximately 175 miles away.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino, who led the prosecution, said the victim’s blood was found in the trunk. Espinoza’s DNA was located in the car despite his denial that he drove it, according to an Orange County Register story on closing arguments.
Prosecutors alleged Espinoza killed his mother to obtain her life insurance and savings.
However, Espinoza’s defense attorney, Frederick Fascenelli, said his client did not know the woman’s financial worth.
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 Posadas-Espinoza, the Orange County Register reported.
Posadas-Espinoza moved to Lompoc in 1989, where she worked as a licensed clinical social worker with agencies including Head Start, the Community Action Commission and Community Health Centers.
Espinoza remains 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.com is a Santa Barbara-based news website. Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz.