Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
OCDA TO OPPOSE PAROLE OF MAN CONVICTED OF 1976 KIDNAP-RAPE-MURDER OF MOTHER IN FRONT OF HER SON
*Inmate committed the crime during a crime spree including kidnapping, theft, robbery, a high-speed pursuit and police stand-off
SANTA ANA – Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckas is opposing the parole of a man convicted of kidnapping, raping and executing a woman in front of her young son during a 1976 crime spree. Gilbert Lovato, 53, is currently being held at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, CA. Lovato was sentenced May 15, 1981, to life in state prison for one felony count of first degree murder with a 6-year sentencing enhancement for the use of a firearm. This case was originally prosecuted by former Deputy District Attorney Daniel T. Brice. Lovato is scheduled for a parole hearing tomorrow, Thursday, July 28, 2011, at 1:30 p.m., at the prison before the Board of Parole Hearings, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (Board).
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Israel Claustro will appear at the hearing to oppose Lovato’s parole.
Lovato, then-18 years old, went on a violent crime spree in December 1976, committing grand theft, firearm theft, robbery and kidnapping with the use of a firearm. On Dec. 11, 1976, Lovato and an accomplice stole two motorcycles from Draco’s Motorcycle Shop in Santa Ana. The inmate and his accomplice also robbed a storekeeper at a Santa Ana doughnut shop using a sawed-off shotgun and took approximately $40 cash. On the night of Dec. 13, 1976, Lovato approached a 25-year-old woman in a store parking lot and asked her for a ride to a gas station. He walked with her and asked her repeatedly for a ride until she finally agreed. As she drove out of the parking lot, Lovato held a knife to the victim’s ribs and ordered her to drive. As she drove along, the victim realized they were being followed. When they came to a stop, a male co-defendant approached the car on the passenger side and gave Lovato a sawed-off shotgun. The victim jumped out of the car and ran away to escape. She was picked up by other motorists and the kidnap was immediately reported to police.
Kidnapping-Murder of Maria Padilla
On Dec.17, 1976, at approximately 10:30 p.m., 22-year-old Maria Padilla and her 2-year-old son left for the bank so she could deposit her paycheck. They never returned home. Lovato kidnapped Padilla and her son from their van and drove them to an isolated location in San Juan Capistrano that he was using to hide from police. Lovato raped and then executed Padilla by shooting her in the head while her son watched.
Lovato left the victim’s half-naked dead body and her helpless son on the side of the highway. For the next two days the victim’s son slept on her body and wandered the highway until he and his mother’s lifeless body were found. Police had been searching for Padilla and her son because the victim’s husband had filed a missing persons report.
After the inmate’s violent kidnap, rape and execution of Padilla, Lovato fled to his hometown in New Mexico in the victim’s stolen van. On Dec. 27, 1976, Santa Fe police received a request to help locate t