A state appeals court in San Francisco today upheld a Menlo Park jewelry store owner’s conviction for kidnapping and conspiring to rape and murder a former employee who rebuffed his romantic advances.
Ricardo Zambrano, 40, of Fresno, was convicted in San Mateo County Superior Court in 2007 of six charges including conspiracy to commit rape and conspiracy to commit murder. He was sentenced in 2008 to 37 years to life in prison.
The victim, a woman in her 20s who had recently moved to the United States from Mexico, had worked at a jewelry stand owned by Zambrano inside the Mi Rancho Market in Menlo Park and had refused to have a romantic relationship with him. She continued working at the market after she stopped working for Zambrano.
She was kidnapped at gunpoint, with a gun supplied by Zambrano, by an accomplice of Zambrano’s as she left work on June 10, 2005.
The accomplice, Alfredo Gonzalez, 42, of Fresno, carjacked her car and drove her to Fresno.
The victim later testified that Gonzalez told her during the drive that he, Zambrano and a third man were going to rape her and then kill her and bury her “inside a very deep well.”
The plot fell apart after another accomplice refused to answer the door at a house to which the victim was supposed to be taken. The victim escaped after Gonzalez took her to a different house and a woman there helped her to flee.
Zambrano was convicted in two trials in 2007. In the first, a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to commit rape, kidnapping for the purpose of rape, kidnapping during a carjacking, threatening a witness and false imprisonment.
The first jury deadlocked, however, on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Zambrano was convicted on that charge in a retrial later that year.
Among other claims in his appeal, Zambrano argued that the jury in the first trial should not have been allowed to hear the victim’s testimony about Gonzalez’s statements during the drive to Fresno.
But a three-judge panel of the appeals court said the statements were admissible as evidence because Gonzalez made the comments while participating in a conspiracy.
Gonzalez was convicted in a separate trial of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit rape, kidnapping, kidnapping during a carjacking, and making a criminal threat.
He was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison. The appeals court upheld his conviction last year.