BRAWLEY — Rosita Torres and Daniel Munguia — the two suspects charged with the 2019 homicide of Raul Esparza — appeared at the Imperial County Superior Courthouse in Brawley for an in-person preliminary examination Wednesday, April 21.
The Honorable Judge William Quan exercised a personal waiver, and the matter was transitioned to the Honorable Judge L. Brooks Anderholt in El Centro.
According to witness testimony, it is suspected the motive which stemmed the homicide of the victim in this case, Raul Esparza, arose from a previous alleged shooting-death of a said Chris Torres.
Chris Torres is the son of Rosita Torres, the co-defendant charged for the homicide of Raul Esparza.
Witnesses testified Esparza, Rosita Torres, and Munguia knew each other and interacted throughout services and memorial vigils in remembrance of Chris Torres.
It was also mentioned on the record in witness testimony that Rosita Torres mentioned to people she suspected Esparza murdered her son. Witness testimony also stated Rosita Torres said since Chris Torres passed away, Esparza had been sad and crying repeatedly at Chris Torres’ death site.
According to witness testimony, Munguia is Rosita Torres’ husband and Chris Torres’ stepfather.
Witnesses testified Rosita Torres invited Esparza to take a ride with her to scare him, at which point Munguia eventually accompanied them.
According to witness testimony, Munguia and Esparza got off the car and headed toward Chris Torres’ memorial site when Munguia was said to have commenced striking Esparza with a skateboard. Said witnesses reportedly fled the scene with Rosita Torres while Munguia was claimed to have last been seen pummeling Esparza with a skateboard.
Munguia reportedly later told witnesses he got the person who killed his stepson.
Witnesses also testified Munguia said he burned the body and that he did it for her son, referring to Rosita Torres.
Responding officers testified upon arrival on scene Thursday, October 17, 2019 a burned body, later identified as Raul Esparza, was lying on its back near the railroad tracks in El Centro.
The fire department was called to the scene when a reported business owner called in a suspected property fire.
Upon arrival, fire deputies testified to have found what was later identified as Esparza’s charred remains in a blue recycling bin along with burned skateboard trucks and determined the fire was started intentionally.
Law enforcement officials later clarified an internal and external autopsy was conducted.
The results of the autopsy were said to have revealed the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and face. Internal examinations illustrated a broken jaw and broken bones in the neck area consistent with strangulation, experts testified.
Law enforcement officials also testified an accelerant was utilized in the recycling bin fire allegedly started by Munguia.
Officers testified video evidence showed Munguia in possession of a container filled with gasoline that was later found near the scene of the crime.
The defense argued the alleged homicide was not premeditated and that Munguia even stated to police that he was in a blackout stage.
Counsel also argued that evidence supported a complete surprise murder. Attorney Steven Honse pointed out the murder weapon was already there and that nothing Rosita Torres did showed she planned Esparza’s death.
After hearing all witnesses, Anderholt stated it was clear Munguia struck the fatal blow. However, evidence supports probable cause the involvement of Rosita Torres constitutes the penalty of PC 187 (murder) by way of PC 182 (criminal conspiracy).
Both codefendants were ordered to return for arraignment to the Imperial County Superior Court in El Centro Tuesday, May 5.