Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A mistrial was declared Thursday when jurors announced they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the trial of a 30-year-old Santa Ana man accused of strangling a woman in a van and then dumping her body in Irvine and setting it ablaze.

The jury, which began deliberations near the end of the day Monday, deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt on first-degree murder, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Herrera.

Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman was ordered to return to court June 24, when attorneys will discuss how to proceed with the case.

Baldivia-Guzman and his brother, Gabino Baldivia-Guzman, 37, of Costa Mesa, who is scheduled to go on trial later, picked up the victim, who remains unidentified, late on Sept. 4, 2009, on Labor Day weekend, Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Herrera said.

The defendants “kidnapped Jane Doe with his brother driving,” and then Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman “dragged” the victim to the back of the van, beating her as she hollered for help, Herrera said in her opening statement of the trial.

Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman then “held his hands there (on her neck) until she breathed her last breath,” Herrera said.

The brothers then went to an industrial area of Irvine at 1851 Kettering “to find a place to leave her, to cover up the crime,” Herrera said.

The victim’s attackers doused her body with gasoline and set it afire and then left early on Sept. 5, 2009, Herrera said.

Investigators are still working to identify her, Herrera said. She had no identification on her and her cellphone was taken, Herrera said.

Investigators believe she was in her early 20s and was 6 feet tall and about 150 pounds, Herrera said. She was wearing shorts, a top and high heels, Herrera said.

A worker in the area saw the body and called police about 8:30 a.m. Sept. 5, 2009, Herrera said.

The victim had suffered blows to her bloodied head and burns over most of her body, according to the prosecutor, who said investigators linked Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman to the crime through DNA evidence found on the victim’s hand.

Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman initially told police he didn’t know anything about the woman and then changed his story to say he was drunk and couldn’t remember much about the night, Herrera said. Baldivia-Guzman, who had gotten into a domestic dispute with his wife that prompted a restraining order against him, said later in the interview that he went out with his brother “to pick up a girl,” Herrera said.

“He said he never thought about sex and that he just wanted to fool around,” Herrera said.

When the victim got into the van and saw the defendant she “basically freaks out,” Herrera said the defendant told police. He said he tried to keep the woman quiet but she yelled for help and struggled to get away.

Baldivia-Guzman wrote a “letter of apology” to the victim’s family during his questioning — a common ruse police use to get a suspect to confess, according to the prosecutor.

Baldivia-Guzman’s attorney, Seth Bank, told jurors that he has a “dramatically different interpretation” of what the defendant told police. The defendant came to the United States when he was 17 from a rural part of Mexico, Bank said. His older brother arrived in the country six or seven years earlier and took his younger brother under his wing.

Gabino Baldivia-Guzman owned a detailing business and got his brother a job cleaning cars for another company in Riverside to prepare him to join the family business, Bank said.

Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman’s pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from the domestic dispute with his wife, and that allowed authorities to obtain the DNA sample that linked him to the murder, Bank said.

Zenaido Baldivia-Guzman is charged with murder with a special circumstance allegation of kidnapping. He also faces a sentencing enhancement for murder during a kidnapping.

If he is re-tried and convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

— Wire reports 

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