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Suspect charged with Andrea Vazquez murder appears in court for preliminary hearing

Two months after Gabriel Esparza pleaded not guilty to charges in relation to Fullerton College student Andrea Vazquez’s death, his preliminary hearing was pushed to January 2024 by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge.
Jake Rhodes
The Clara Shortridge Foltz Courthouse will be home to most of Gabriel Esparza’s trial. The preliminary setting of his case took place on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.

Approximately 30 loved ones of Fullerton College student Andrea Vazquez filled a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday, as the suspect charged with her murder, Gabriel Esparza, attended his first preliminary hearing in the case.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kerry L. White motioned for a new preliminary setting date of Jan. 23, 2024, according to an email to The Hornet by Los Angeles County District Attorney’s representative Venusse Dunn. Esparza pleaded not guilty to seven charges of murder, kidnapping and attempted rape on Aug. 23, 2023.

Retired LAPD Detective Moses Castillo, who serves as the Vazquez family’s advocate and spokesperson, said Esparza’s preliminary settings may be drawn out over the next calendar year or potentially into 2025 before an official trial begins.

Some of Vazquez’s loved ones wore white T-shirts that said, “In Loving Memory,” with a photograph of Vazquez and her birthday written on it. A few relatives and friends appeared at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center half an hour before the preliminary setting, while a large group of family members, including Vazquez’s mother and sister, entered just moments before Esparza was called in by the bailiff.

Esparza, who is being represented by criminal defense attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez, entered the courtroom wearing handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit. He was taken back to custody after less than a minute.

LA County Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman, who is representing the People of the State of California in this case, appeared remotely with audio only.

Castillo first heard about Vazquez’s disappearance through an Instagram post made by the Whittier Police Department in August 2023.

“Little did I think, that just a few hours later the family would be reaching out to me,” said Castillo.

After Esparza was taken back into custody, Vazquez’s family left the courtroom and gathered in the corridor, circling up so everyone could hear Castillo. In Spanish, he spoke on what happened in court Wednesday morning, as well as what the upcoming proceedings will look like.

“I gave the family a heads up that all they’re probably going to probably do, is just change the date,” said Castillo.

The next preliminary setting in January will take place again in Dept. 050 in the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles.

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About the Contributors
Guadalupe Gonzalez
Guadalupe Gonzalez, Copy Editor
Guadalupe Gonzalez is a first semester staff reporter and Copy Editor for The Hornet Newspaper. When not writing, she enjoys sewing, reading, and watching thriller or horror movies and spending time with her two cats. Her goal in journalism is to be a news reporter for a newspaper media outlet.
Jake Rhodes
Jake Rhodes, Editor-in-Chief
Jake Rhodes is the Editor-in-Chief for The Hornet Newspaper. He has been on The Hornet Newspaper for four semesters. He is a seven-time award winning journalist. He has received second place in Sports Game Story as well as Meritorious recognition in Enterprise News Story/Series for an investigation into Title IX concerns at Fullerton College from JACC. Jake is also a national CMA Pinnacle award winner, receiving first place in Sports Multimedia Story, second place in Sports Investigative Story, and Honorable Mention for Sports Game Story. He has also received an honorable mention as producer of Around the Hornet for Audio Podcast and a third place finish as a contributor for Audio Podcast from JACC. While he has served as EIC, Jake is responsible for The Hornet securing an ACP Online Pacemaker award, which has been referred to as the "Pulitzer of college media." The Hornet has also been recognized for "General Excellence: Online News Site" by JACC in both semesters Jake has served as EIC. He was also elected to be the new JACC SoCal Student Representative for all JACC members in Southern California for 2024-2025. Outside of The Hornet, Jake is an assistant coach with the Varsity Boys' basketball team at Fullerton Union High School and is also a bartender at Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ. His end goal in Journalism is to be a beat writer for an MLB or NBA team or a sportscaster. Jake enjoys spending time with his wife Alexis, daughters Samantha, Madison, and dog Cocoa.

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    Marina BonillaNov 15, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    I want to thank Moses for helping the family and for keeping us informed of Andreas case. Andrea was a very good friend to my daughter and her death has caused my daughter so much pain.