[UPDATED with Not Guilty Pleas:] Gabino Valdivia-Guzman and Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, Brothers Accused of Murdering Unidentified Woman and Setting Her on Fire, Claim They Are Not Guilty

UPDATE, MARCH 28, 5:11 P.M.: Brothers Gabino Baldivia-Guzman, 32, of Costa Mesa, and Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman, 25, of Santa Ana, pleaded not guilty Friday to murdering a woman in September 2009 and setting her body on fire in an Irvine business park lot.

The pleas were made in Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, where the brothers attended a pre-trial hearing to special-circumstances murder charges during the commission of a kidnapping.

The dead woman has yet to be identified.

UPDATE, NOV. 9, 2010, 4 P.M.: I'd almost forgotten about the murder of an African-American woman found burned to death in the parking lot of an Irvine business park in September 2009.

To this day, the woman has yet to be identified, but the Orange County District Attorney's Office announced today that her killers have: brothers Gabino Valdivia-Guzman, 31, of Costa Mesa, and Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, 24, of Santa Ana.

A passerby who worked near the 1800 block of Kettering, an Irvine area that is predominantly home to businesses and industrial uses, contacted Irvine Police around 8:30 a.m. Sept. 5, 2009, to report a "person down."

Officers arrived to find a deceased woman lying in the parking lot. It appeared she had been set on fire there hours earlier. She was later described as an African American in her early 20s, approximately 6 feet tall and 150 pounds.

[UPDATED with Not Guilty Pleas:] Gabino Valdivia-Guzman and Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, Brothers Accused of Murdering Unidentified Woman and Setting Her on Fire, Claim They Are Not Guilty

Police could find nothing to identify the woman, who did not appear to be associated with businesses in the area. As the county coroner set about trying to determine the exact cause of her death, Irvine Police released an artist's sketch of her.

Detectives had one other clue to go off of: Her distinctive footwear. She had been wearing size 10 Glaze brand shoes, which were in good condition, either new or rarely worn. Police hoped releasing this detail might spark the memory of someone who sold a tall African American woman the shoes or saw a person fitting that description wearing them.

No one has come forward yet with that identification.

Meanwhile, evidence collected at the scene and from the woman's body, including what was under her fingernails, was processed at the Orange County Crime Lab, which was able to link DNA found to Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman. Subsequent investigation linked his brother to the crime, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA).

Here is what prosecutors claim happened:

  • Late on the night of Sept. 4, 2009, Gabino Valdivia-Guzman, who was driving a van, picked the woman up in Santa Ana while his brother hid in the back. She panicked when she heard Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, screaming and trying to get out of the van.
  • Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman is accused of pulling her to the back of the van and repeatedly beating her in the face and neck as she struggled to escape. Gabino Valdivia-Guzman kept driving as his brother strangled and murdered the woman.
  • Gabino Valdivia-Guzman continued driving to the industrial business parking lot in Irvine, where they allegedly dumped the body, doused her with gasoline and set her ablaze before taking her cell phone and driving off.


As the following OCDA statement on the charges reveals, the brothers, who face special circumstances murder charges and possible life prison sentences, were together when they were arrested.
 

November 9, 2010

BROTHERS CHARGED WITH 2009 STRANGLING-MURDER OF UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN AFTER DNA MATCH

SANTA ANA - Two brothers were charged today with the 2009 strangling-murder of an unidentified woman after being linked to the crime through DNA. Gabino Valdivia-Guzman, 31, Costa Mesa, and Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, 24, Santa Ana, are each charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder with sentencing enhancements for murder during the commission of a kidnapping. The defendants face a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. They are being held without bail and are scheduled to be arraigned today, Nov. 9, 2010, in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana. The time is to be determined.

The victim, Jane Doe, has yet to be identified. Law enforcement is seeking the public's help in identifying her. Anyone with information about the victim's identity is asked to contact Irvine Police Detective Vicky Hurtado at (949) 724-7194, or Supervising District Attorney Investigator Helen Moreno at (714) 347-8492.

Late on the night of Sept. 4, 2009, brothers Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman and Gabino Valdivia-Guzman are accused of picking up Jane Doe in Santa Ana. Gabino Valdivia-Guzman is accused of driving the van and Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman is accused of sitting in the back, out of sight from the victim. Jane Doe began to panic after getting into the van and discovering the second man inside. When Jane Doe began to scream and attempted to get away, Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman is accused of pulling her into the back of the van and repeatedly beating her in the face and neck as she struggled to escape. Gabino Valdivia-Guzman is accused of continuing to drive as Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman physically assaulted the victim.

Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman is accused of strangling and murdering Jane Doe. Gabino Valdivia-Guzman is accused of driving his brother and the victim to an industrial business parking lot at the 1800 block of Kettering in Irvine. The two defendants are accused of dumping the victim's body in the parking lot, dousing her with gasoline from a canister in the van, and setting her body on fire. They are accused of taking the victim's cell phone and fleeing the scene.

Early on the morning of Sept. 5, 2009, Jane Doe's partially burned body was discovered by employees showing up for work. IPD responded to the scene and began investigating this case. Evidence was collected at the scene, including DNA from under Jane Doe's fingernails. That DNA sample was entered into the Orange County Crime Lab database.

On Nov. 5, 2010, Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman's DNA was linked to the murder stemming from a 2009 Orange County misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence. IPD detectives located Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman on Nov. 6, 2010, in a shopping center on the corner of Main Street and McFadden Avenue in Santa Ana, where he was taken into custody. His older brother, Gabino Valdivia-Guzman, was with him. IPD determined through subsequent investigation that Gabino Valdivia-Guzman was also involved in the murder and he was also taken into custody.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.


UPDATE, SEPT. 14, 2009, 12:34 P.M.: Days after releasing the artist's sketch depicting the woman whose badly burned body was found in the parking lot of a closed business in the 1800 block of Kettering in Irvine on Sept. 5, Irvine police have presented another piece of evidence they hope will help identify the victim: Her distinctive footwear.

According to IPD:

When the victim was located she was wearing size 10 Glaze brand shoes, like the one depicted above. It appeared her shoes had been in good condition, either new or rarely worn. Detectives believe the shoes are fairly distinctive and therefore may have caught the attention of someone who remembers the victim and could provide information leading to her identity.

Anyone with information about the victim's identity is asked to contact the Irvine Police Department's 24-hour tip hotline at (949) 724-7192.


The woman has otherwise been described as an African American in her early 20s, approximately 6 feet tall and 150 pounds.

ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 9, 2009: A passerby who works in the 1800 block of Kettering, which is predominantly home to businesses and industrial uses in Irvine, contacted police around 8:30 a.m. Saturday to report a "person down" who appeared to be burned and lifeless.

Officers arrived to find the deceased woman lying in the parking lot. It appeared she had been burned there hours earlier. The county coroner is now trying to determine the exact cause of death.

Police say the victim did not appear to have been associated with the business near where she was found.

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