Jurors recommended the death penalty today for a Coachella man who killed two farm workers in a Thermal vineyard days after taking the life of a teenager.
Angel Anthony Esparza, 30, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 21. He was convicted last month of two counts of first-degree murder for the vineyard killings, and jurors found true special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder in the commission of robbery and kidnapping.
Esparza was tried earlier this year for the double murder and the Dec. 3, 2009, shooting death of 16-year-old Angel Luna, but the jury deadlocked on the vineyard killings, triggering a retrial on those counts. Esparza was staying at the Thermal residence of Christina Zapata and her daughter, Cecilia Morin, while on the run from law enforcement, and on Dec. 19, Juarez and Garcia arrived with plans to pay to have sex with Morin, Deputy District Attorney Jake Silva said.
Esparza entered Morin's bedroom with a revolver and ordered Garcia and Juarez to the floor, took their wallets and bound them with cords and duct tape. He and Zapata drove them to a vineyard at Avenue 58 and Pierce Street, and Esparza dragged them into the vineyard, the prosecutor said. Later, Zapata's boyfriend, who had a can of gasoline with him, drove Zapata and Esparza back to the vineyard, and Esparza took the gas and a bag of the victims' belongings into the vineyard. The next morning, Juarez and Garcia were found shot in the head and burned, Silva said.
Esparza was arrested in San Bernardino on Dec. 24, 2009, and authorities found a gun that matched markings found on a bullet in Garcia's head, Silva said. Morin and Zapata refused to testify in the trial -- their previous testimony was read in court. They each pleaded guilty in the case to two counts of second-degree murder last year in exchange for sentences of 15 years to life in prison.
Esparza was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison for killing Luna.