[UPDATED with Not Guilty Pleas:] Gabino Valdivia-Guzman and Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, Brothers Accused of Murdering Unidentified Woman and Setting Her on Fire, Claim They Are Not Guilty

Categories: Crime-iny
UPDATE, MARCH 28, 5:11 P.M.: Brothers Gabino Baldivia-Guzman, 32, of Costa Mesa, and Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman, 25, of Santa Ana, pleaded not guilty Friday to murdering a woman in September 2009 and setting her body on fire in an Irvine business park lot.

The pleas were made in Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, where the brothers attended a pre-trial hearing to special-circumstances murder charges during the commission of a kidnapping.

The dead woman has yet to be identified.

UPDATE, NOV. 9, 2010, 4 P.M.: I'd almost forgotten about the murder of an African-American woman found burned to death in the parking lot of an Irvine business park in September 2009.

To this day, the woman has yet to be identified, but the Orange County District Attorney's Office announced today that her killers have: brothers Gabino Valdivia-Guzman, 31, of Costa Mesa, and Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, 24, of Santa Ana.

A passerby who worked near the 1800 block of Kettering, an Irvine area that is predominantly home to businesses and industrial uses, contacted Irvine Police around 8:30 a.m. Sept. 5, 2009, to report a "person down."

Officers arrived to find a deceased woman lying in the parking lot. It appeared she had been set on fire there hours earlier. She was later described as an African American in her early 20s, approximately 6 feet tall and 150 pounds.

Police could find nothing to identify the woman, who did not appear to be associated with businesses in the area. As the county coroner set about trying to determine the exact cause of her death, Irvine Police released an artist's sketch of her.

Detectives had one other clue to go off of: Her distinctive footwear. She had been wearing size 10 Glaze brand shoes, which were in good condition, either new or rarely worn. Police hoped releasing this detail might spark the memory of someone who sold a tall African American woman the shoes or saw a person fitting that description wearing them.

No one has come forward yet with that identification.

Meanwhile, evidence collected at the scene and from the woman's body, including what was under her fingernails, was processed at the Orange County Crime Lab, which was able to link DNA found to Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman. Subsequent investigation linked his brother to the crime, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA).

Here is what prosecutors claim happened:

  • Late on the night of Sept. 4, 2009, Gabino Valdivia-Guzman, who was driving a van, picked the woman up in Santa Ana while his brother hid in the back. She panicked when she heard Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman, screaming and trying to get out of the van.

  • Zenaido Valdivia-Guzman is accused of pulling her to the back of the van and repeatedly beating her in the face and neck as she struggled to escape. Gabino Valdivia-Guzman kept driving as his brother strangled and murdered the woman.

  • Gabino Valdivia-Guzman continued driving to the industrial business parking lot in Irvine, where they allegedly dumped the body, doused her with gasoline and set her ablaze before taking her cell phone and driving off.

As the following OCDA statement on the charges reveals, the brothers, who face special circumstances murder charges and possible life prison sentences, were together when they were arrested.

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