For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
TWO TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR 1995 COLD CASE KIDNAPPING AND STABBING-MURDER OF MAN
SANTA ANA – Two defendants will be arraigned tomorrow for the 1995 cold case kidnapping and stabbing-murder of a man. Gianni Anthony Van, 43, Costa Mesa, and Diane Tran, 44, Costa Mesa, are each charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder and one felony count of special circumstance murder during the commission of kidnapping and lying in wait. If convicted, the defendants face a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. The defendants are being held without bail and are scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana.
Co-defendant Shannon Ray Gries, 42, Santa Ana, is facing the same charges and enhancements as Tran and Van, and is being held without bail. Gries is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Jan. 11, 2013, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Co-defendant Norma Patricia Esparza, 38, France, is charged with one felony count of special circumstance murder during the commission of kidnapping and faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Esparza is being held on $300,000 bail and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Feb. 22, 2013, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center.
Kody Tran, Diane Tran’s husband, was also involved in the murder but died and subsequently was not charged.
In March 1995, Esparza, a college student in Pomona, was romantically involved with Van. After they ended the relationship, Esparza is accused of returning to Orange County to visit her sister.
On March 25, 1995, Esparza is accused of going out with her sister to a bar. She is accused of meeting 24-year-old Gonzalo Ramirez at El Cortez bar in Santa Ana.
On the morning of March 26, 1995, Esparza is accused of having breakfast at a restaurant in Santa Ana with Ramirez, her sister, and a friend. Ramirez later drove Esparza and her friend back to Esparza’s dorm room in Pomona. In early April 1995, Esparza is accused of calling her ex-boyfriend, Van, and telling him about Ramirez.
Late on the night of April 15, 1995, Esparza, Van, Gries, and another friend are accused of meeting at Accurate Transmission in Costa Mesa, owned by Kody Tran. Esparza, Van, and Gries are accused of going to El Cortez that night. Once at the bar, Esparza is accused of pointing out Ramirez.
Early on the morning of April 16, 1995, Ramirez left the bar with a friend. Gries, Van, and Kody Tran are accused of following Ramirez in a van as he drove away, intentionally rear-ending his