Ricardo Dagoberto Diaz-Nivarez, 27, of Santa Ana, was sentenced today to 25 years to life in state prison for plotting with his mother to murder an elderly jewelry salesman whose body was never found. The granddaughter of 78-year-old Mario Hernandez told the court today that his murder devastated the family, and that she wished she could have given him a proper burial and a place to rest his headstone.
Hernandez often traveled to Los Angeles to fetch jewelry for his Orange County customers. On the night of March 17, 2005, he told his granddaughter he needed to get up early the next morning to meet a client buying jewelry from him.
When Hernandez did not return home the next night, his family called Santa Ana Police to file a missing person's report. The family also contacted Hernandez's cell phone company and discovered the last number he dialed on March 18, 2005, belonged to Garden Grove resident Rebeca Nivarez, the mother of Ricardo.
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Hernandez's van was found abandoned at Pavion Park in Mission Viejo the following week. Although it had not been burned, officers smelled gasoline throughout the interior. What had been a missing person's case was from then investigated as a homicide.
Detectives discovered several pieces of Hernandez's jewelry had been pawned at shops throughout Santa Ana. It was also uncovered that Ms. Nivarez had her daughter hold some jewelry for her before she fled the area.
After a yearlong investigation, Nivarez was arrested for robbing and murdering Hernandez. By then, Diaz-Nivarez had fled to Mexico, but he was later extradited back to the U.S. Both were convicted by juries, and now both have been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.