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1995 Stabbing Suspects Set to Face Judge

Two people suspected to have taken part in a fatal stabbing in 1995 will be arraigned. A former Pomona College student is among the four suspects in custody.

Two people suspected in the 1995 kidnapping and stabbing death of a 24-year-old man in Santa Ana are scheduled to be arraigned today.

Gianni Anthony Van, 43, and 44-year-old Diane Tran, both of Costa Mesa, each are charged with felony counts of conspiracy to commit murder and of special circumstances allegations of murder during the commission of kidnapping and lying in wait in the April 1995 slaying of Gonzalo Ramirez, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.

If convicted, they face a minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Co-defendants Shannon Ray Gries and Norma Patricia Esparza face the same charges and enhancements as Tran and Van. They are also in custody.

The 42-year-old Gries, of Santa Ana, is being held without bail. His pretrial hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 11.

Bail for the 38-year-old Esparza -- who has been living in France for several years -- is $300,000. Her pretrial hearing has been set for Feb. 22.

Diane Tran's late husband, Kody Tran, also was a suspect in Ramirez's death.

Prosecutors said Ramirez was kidnapped by Van, Gries and Tran after he left Santa Ana's El Cortez bar in the early morning hours of April 16, 1995, taken to a business Tran operated, stabbed to death and left on the side of Sand Canyon Road, where his body was found later that morning by Irvine police.

Esparza, Van's then-former girlfriend, had met Ramirez at the bar in March 1995 and accepted a ride from him to her Pomona College dormitory room in Claremont, according to prosecutors.

They allege Esparza saw Ramirez at the bar that morning and pointed him out to Van, Gries and Tran, who followed Ramirez's car after he left, purposely ramming it with the van in which they were riding and kidnapping him when he got out of his vehicle to investigate the crash.

The Santa Ana Police Department investigated this case, but it went cold.

Some time after Ramirez's death, Esparza moved to France with her husband. In that time, new evidence surfaced implicating those who have been arrested, authorities said.

When Esparza re-entered the United States in October, landing in Boston, she was arrested and extradited to Orange County, authorities said.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray is prosecuting the case.

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