Shortly after midnight on Friday, Dec. 5, 1997, Peter Gallardo Espinoza confronted 16-year-old Yorba Linda resident Alan Doyle near a concert theater as Doyle and his friends were heading home from a heavy-metal concert. From their car, Espinoza and his buddies taunted Doyle with shouts of "Devil worshipers must die!" Then Espinoza jumped out of his vehicle and stabbed Doyle in the stomach.
Doyle died a few hours later at Riverside General Hospital. Espinoza, a Corona gang member, allegedly bragged about the crime to his girlfriend, who later told police. But by the time police began searching for him, Espinoza had fled across the border to Mexico, where he remained for the next eight years. According to Doyle's parents, police told them Espinoza traveled back and forth between Corona and Mexico several times over the years, making a mockery of America's border security in the process.
All that ended at 4 p.m. on May 3, when Mexican police arrested Espinoza at his home in Tijuana—for overstaying his visa. They remanded him to the custody of U.S. Marshals at San Ysidro, the immigration checkpoint south of San Diego, who handed him over to Lt. Ron Anderson, a Corona police detective.
Anderson did not respond to an interview request, but a Corona police spokesman confirmed that Espinoza now awaits trial for murder at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside with bail set at $10 million. He faces charges of murder, carrying a firearm while committing a felony, driving without a license, and failure to appear in court.
"I'm glad they got him," said Buena Park resident David Doyle, the day after Espinoza's capture. "We'll see what happens next." Doyle said that his son's friends, who witnessed the murder, have kept in contact with each other and the Doyle family. "It won't be too hard to gather them together. Two of the witnesses are cops now," Doyle added. "That's going to lend some credibility to the case."
"I'm just floating," said Doyle's mother Tonna Rizzi. "The cops worked their asses off on this case. It took multiple agencies many years . . . This has taken so much effort."
Much of that effort has been thanks to Rizzi, who has campaigned for years to draw attention to her son's case, criticizing both Corona police for inaction and the Mexican government for refusing to extradite suspects like Espinoza who, if convicted, could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. She never expected that the Mexican government would extradite Espinoza without seeking promises regarding his sentence.
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The timing of Espinoza's arrest is ironic. Along with her 17-year-old son Nick, Rizzi traveled to Washington, D.C., last month, after winning a free round-trip ticket from KFI-FM's John&Kenshow. The chattering duo broadcast several shows from inside the Beltway to publicize their so-called "Angry Mob March" of immigration reform activists. The segments included interviews with Rizzi and relatives of other murder victims whose killers fled to Mexico.
While there, Rizzi met with aides to U.S. Congressmen Chris Cox (R-Newport Beach) and Ed Royce (R-Fullerton). Inside one of the Senate buildings, she literally bumped into Senator John Kerry and showed him a photograph of her son. Kerry, she recalled, told her he was very concerned about immigration issues.
"To have this happen right after my trip is amazing," Rizzi said. "We've gotten close to arresting him before, but he's always moved. I didn't want to get my hopes up. I can't even describe how I'm feeling. I'm just glad to know he's in a cage where he belongs."