The murder and conspiracy trial against suspects Rosita Deborah Torres and Daniel Alexander Munguia, who remain in the county jail in connection with the killing of El Centro man Raul “Bubba” Esparza more than a year ago, will next be in court on Feb. 18.
El Centro residents Torres, 45, and Munguia, 39, appeared in the Brawley annex of the Imperial County Superior on Jan.7 in front of Judge Christopher Plourd. After a series of previous delays, Plourd, with the blessing of their court-appointed defense attorneys and a county prosecutor in agreement, set the oft-delayed pretrial hearing for both for Feb. 18, a preliminary hearing for April 20, and a bail review hearing to be hold “off calendar” at a future date, Plourd said Jan. 7.
Torres and Munguia are being tried together by Imperial County Deputy District Attorney Martin Gonzalez. Torres’ attorney is Stephen Honse and Munguia’s counsel is Jason Amavisca. Both defendants are being held on $1 million bail.
Torres pleaded not guilty on Aug. 24 and Munguia pleaded not guilty on Aug. 27 on one charge each of murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the killing of Esparza on Sept. 17, 2019, in El Centro.
Torres was arrested on the charges on Aug. 20, while Munguia was already in jail from a July 30 arrest on unrelated charges.
The Imperial County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against the pair Aug. 24.
Although authorities have yet to make the outright connection, this case does appear to be somehow linked to the unsolved murder of Torres’ son, Christopher Erasmo Torres, who was shot and killed in almost the identical spot that prosecutors say Esparza was killed, yet only several weeks apart.
Rosita Torres’ 24-year-old son, Chris, was killed Aug. 4, 2019.
El Centro police have never officially connected the cases, other than to acknowledging the fact that Chris is Rosita’s child.
The suspects are alleged by the DA’s Office to have beaten and killed 30-year-old Esparza “on or about Sept. 17, (2019).”
His remains were found burned in a trash-bin fire by El Centro firefighters about 7:10 a.m. that morning behind businesses near the railroad tracks on the east side of El Centro in the 900 block of Second Street near East Hamilton Avenue.
Prosecutors allege in court documents that Torres drove to Esparza’s home, where she picked him up, took him to an apartment and then picked up co-conspirator Munguia.
Torres then “drove (a) vehicle to (the) railroad tracks,” court documents state, where Esparza was killed.
The investigation into Esparza’s death is still considered active and ongoing as the case makes its way through the courts.