A gang member who fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution for the 1998 murder of corrections officer Elizabeth Begaren is now in custody without bail at Anaheim's jail.
Guillermo Espinoza was the shooter in the brutal, Jan. 17, 1998, slaying on the on ramp to the eastbound 91 freeway from East Street in Anaheim—a crime that was orchestrated by Begaren's newlywed husband, who went on to collect nearly $1 million from her life insurance policy.
The case went cold and remained unsolved through February 2012, when Anaheim homicide detectives arrested Nuzzio Begaren and Jose Luis Sandoval and Rudy Duran, who were Los Angeles gang associates of fugitive Espinoza. The Orange County grand jury indicted Espinoza as the actual murderer in May 2012.
Charged for suspected murder and conspiracy with the special circumstances of murder during the commission of a robbery and murder for financial gain, Espinoza was featured in an August 2012 episode of America’s Most Wanted.
The following year, Nuzzio Begaren was convicted for pulling off his wife's murder—which had been staged to look like a robbery in front of him and her daughter—and was sentenced to 26 years to life in state prison. Sandoval and Duran were also convicted.
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In the ensuing years, local, regional, federal and Mexican law enforcement organizations continued to help the Anaheim Police Department try to find Espinoza, according to Sgt. Daron Wyatt, the agency's spokesman.
Late Thursday afternoon, 40-year-old Espinoza was located in Mexicali, Mexico, arrested without incident for being a U.S. citizen in that country illegally and immediately deported to the waiting arms of Anaheim detectives at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Wyatt said.
Espinoza had been living under an assumed name and had been in custody in Mexicali in March 2015, but he was released before his true identity was determined, Wyatt said.
Facing life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted, Espinoza was booked into the Anaheim Detention Facility without bail, said Wyatt, who interestingly was named in a civil suit that claimed a false confession was beaten out of someone police would originally claim was the shot caller in Elizabeth Begaren's murder.