A convicted felon accused of gunning down a man near Indio must stand trial on a murder charge, a judge ruled Monday.
Ruben Corria Esquivel Jr., 31, of Coachella remains in custody at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta awaiting trial for allegedly killing 42-year-old Vincent “Chente” Aispuro on Feb. 21 in the 47600 block of Van Buren Street in an unincorporated area near Indio.
At a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Otis Sterling ruled that prosecutors presented sufficient evidence for Esquivel to proceed to trial on the murder charge, along with a sentence-enhancing allegation of discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury.
Sterling kept the defendant’s bail at $1 million and scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Oct. 19.
Esquivel could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted, according to John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
During the hearing, an inmate in custody on separate criminal charges was called to testify against the defendant stemming from an immunity deal with prosecutors.
Rudy Ramirez, 38, a transient of the eastern Coachella Valley, testified that several hours after the shooting was reported, a woman, who was his friend of several years, and the defendant arrived at his camp where she used his cellphone.
The woman, Martha Perez Espinoza, 40, of Coachella, was previously convicted for being an accessory after the fact for her part in the shooting. She was sentenced to 18 months in jail and 18 months of mandatory supervision upon her release.
Ramirez testified that Esquivel is a member of a Coachella-based street gang, but was otherwise uncooperative while on the stand, and repeatedly declined to answer questions posed by the prosecutor.
Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Cameron James testified that after arresting Ramirez on separate criminal allegations in May, Ramirez told deputies that Espinoza told him Esquivel shot the victim because the man had disrespected him.
Ramirez, a convicted felon, admitted to being a drug addict who was high during the alleged post-shooting interaction with the suspects in the case.
James also cited separate witness testimony that placed Espinoza and an unidentified man inside the house where the shooting occurred. The witness reported seeing the man shoot the victim before Espinoza and him ran to a nearby car and sped away.
Sheriff’s deputies later arrested Esquivel on July 24 in the 88000 block of Avenue 70 near Mecca, where he holed up for several hours before surrendering.
Espinoza was arrested on July 30 at a probation office in Indio. At the time of her arrest, she was the subject of a warrant for allegedly violating her three-year probation term on a felony identity theft conviction.
Esquivel has documented felony convictions in Riverside County that include attempted carjacking and three parole violations, court records show. He was also convicted in 2012 of a misdemeanor for participating in a criminal street gang.
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