A man faces a slew of charges in connection with the fatal shooting and kidnapping of 19-year-old Andrea Vazquez, including attempted rape, officials announced Wednesday.
Gabriel Sean Esparza, 20, was charged with one count of murder, one count of willful — deliberate and premeditated — attempted murder, one count of kidnapping to commit rape, one count of kidnapping, one count of assault with intent to commit rape and two counts of attempted forcible rape, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Special circumstances of murder during a kidnapping and murder during an attempted rape are also alleged.
Esparza pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment Wednesday and is being held without bail.
Authorities, however, told KTLA that he confessed to the killing.
Esparza approached Vazquez and her boyfriend shortly after midnight Sunday in the parking stalls area of Penn Park in Whittier and allegedly shot at the victims.
Vazquez’s family had previously said that her boyfriend went to get help and when he returned, she was gone.
Esparza is accused of kidnapping Vazquez and driving off with her in the bed of his pickup truck.
He allegedly drove her to a remote area of Moreno Valley where he tried to rape her before dumping her body in a field, officials said.
Esparza was arrested at his job in Lakewood hours before Vazquez’s body was found.
If convicted as charged, he faces a maximum penalty of life without the possibility of parole. He is set to appear in court again in October.
“Our hearts ache for the devastating loss of a young life,” District Attorney George Gascón said. “The heinous nature of this crime, involving the murder, kidnapping and attempted rape of an innocent young woman, shocks our community to its core. My office will work tirelessly to hold Gabriel Esparza accountable for his callous actions against Ms. Vazquez and her partner. In these moments of profound sorrow, I send my deepest condolences to Ms. Vazquez’s family as they cope with this painful tragedy.”