Sat. Jun 10th, 2023

We still don’t know the identity of the woman that Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman and his brother, Gabino Baldivia-Guzman, kidnapped in Santa Ana, then beat, strangled, burned and dumped in an Irvine parking lot, way back on Sep. 5, 2009. But there is some certainty now as to the fate of Zenaido as he has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Zenaido’s first trial resulted in an 11-1 deadlock when one of the jurors, for whatever reason, refused to find him guilty. He was finally convicted last year, by a second O.C. Superior Court jury, following a retrial. His defense attorney argued for a lesser charge but was rebuffed by the jury. The second jury also ruled that Zenaido had committed the crime during a kidnapping.

Zenaido’s brother, Gabino, a Costa Mesa resident, will go on trial later this year. He too is facing a potential life sentence.

Zenaido is 37 now. He was 24 when he and Gabino decided to take their work van out to find a woman they could have sex with, ultimately picking up “Jane Doe” up near Harbor Boulevard and First Street in Santa Ana.

When the woman’s burned remains were discovered by the Irvine Police she had no ID on her, no driver’s license, no bank card or phone. Police investigators tried searching for her DNA and fingerprints in state and federal databases but came up emtpy.

Police investigators also tried to trace the victim’s identity via dental records and even tried to trace where she bought the distinctive footwear she was discovered with. Both searches came up empty. The investigators also tried searching local hotels where perhaps she might have met someone but again found no clues.

The police investigators however did find a major clue that eventually led them to her killers. They found male DNA underneath a fingernail on the victim’s left hand.

That DNA was archived and about 14 months after the victim’s burned body was discovered, Zenaido was fingerprinted when he was convicted of domestic violence. He was a 24-year-old Santa Ana auto detailer at the time. His DNA was entered into a law enforcement database after his conviction. His DNA matched that of the material found under the unknown woman whose body was found in Irvine. At that time both Zenaido and his brother, Gabina, were finally arrested.

Once the men were arrested the investigators were able to piece together what happened to their victim. Gabino admitted that he negotiated a price with the woman and that she willingly got into the van. However once she entered the van she realized that Zenaido was also in the vehicle. She panicked and started screaming, fearing the worst. Zenaido then pulled the woman into the back of the van and struck her in an attempt to quiet her screams but she fought back. Zenaido then choked her hard enough to break a bone in her neck and kept her from breathing long enough to kill her.

The brothers realized that they had to do something with her body so they opted to dump the woman at an the Irvine parking lot that they knew was isolated as they had done some detail work there previously.

Gabino apparently also told the police investigators that he grabbed a can of gas, which was in the work van as it was used to power a generator, and he proceeded to set the woman’s body on fire.

When the Irvine police found her body there was no cell phone on it as the brothers had tossed it into a street.

O.C. Superior Court Judge Sheila Hanson said that while Zenaido was only 23 at the time of the killing and that he had grown up in a poor family in a rural part of Mexico and had little formal education, he had gone from being arrested for domestic violence to a special circumstances murder. Her sentence reflected the fact that he remains a danger to the public due to his conduct in the murder case.

Zenaido made no comments at his sentencing hearing. The victim had no friends or relatives to speak up for her as she remains unidentified. But the judge’s ruling made sure that justice was at last served.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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