A Palm Springs woman pleaded guilty to being an accessory in the killing and robbery of a 78-year-old man at his home in a gated community in Cathedral City, and was immediately sentenced to three years probation.
Florence Jean Hanson, 53, also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of receiving stolen property in connection with the Jan. 9 robbery and death of David John Zuniga.
Her boyfriend, 33-year-old Tiberiu Timothy Nista of Palm Springs, is charged with murder and five other felony counts in connection with Zuniga's
killing, including cruelty to an elder and grand theft. Special circumstance
allegations of murder in commission of a robbery and burglary could make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
Nista, who is being held without bail, is awaiting a June 26 preliminary
Hanson was arrested Feb. 11 for helping hide and destroy unspecified evidence related to the case, according to Cathedral City police Sgt. Paul
Zuniga was found dead by paramedics who responded to a call for medical
aid at a home in the 69000 block of Las Camelias Road in Rio Del Sol Estates on Jan. 9.
Nista allegedly contacted Zuniga that day with the intent of robbing him, and Zuniga drove Nista to the victim's home, Herrera said. Nista
``severely assaulted Zuniga in commission of the robbery, which led to his
death,'' the sergeant alleged, adding that the victim's 2008 Cadillac CTS and
wallet were taken.
Detectives searched Nista's home in the 60100 block of Overture Drive in
Palm Springs and found the key to Zuniga's Cadillac, as well as other
property belonging to the him and evidence allegedly linking Nista to the
crime, according to police.
Detectives subsequently figured out the whereabouts of the car, which
was found at a Palm Springs apartment complex with evidence allegedly
connecting Nista to the robbery and killing found inside the Cadillac, Herrera said.
Nista was initially arrested on suspicion of fraud on Jan. 11 at the Morongo Casino in Cabazon, where he was allegedly trying to buy alcohol with
Zuniga's credit card.
He made more than $950 worth of purchases with the victim's credit cards, and also took his house keys and a transponder, according to the criminal complaint.
Prosecutors haven't announced whether they will seek the death penalty