Former jewelry shop proprietor convicted

A former Menlo Park jewelry store owner faces life in prison after a jury convicted him Friday of plotting to have an employee kidnapped, raped and killed because she rejected his advances.

A Jan. 30 sentencing will conclude Ricardo Zambrano’s second trial. On March 15 of last year, a jury convicted him of conspiracy to rape, kidnapping, kidnapping during a carjacking and felony threats, but deadlocked on conspiracy to commit murder.

On Friday, a second jury found Zambrano guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, which carries a sentence of 35 years to life in prison, said Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Prosecutors said Zambrano hired a Fresno man, Alfonzo Gonzales, to kidnap an employee of Zambrano’s at a small jewelry store inside Mi Rancho Market in Menlo Park.

Gonzales kidnapped the woman at gunpoint and drove her to a home in Fresno where she was to be raped and killed, Wagstaffe said. Once at the home, however, the Fresno home’s residents called police and the woman escaped harm.

Gonzales was later sentenced to 35 years to life for his role in the crime.

Wagstaffe called Zambrano “extremely dangerous” and said prosecutors worriedthat he would have witnesses killed to prevent them from testifying.

“He is willing to do anything to avoid being held accountable, including killing of witnesses,” he said. “He is a dramatic danger to the community.”

During the trial, Zambrano’s attorney Chris Morales argued that the witnesses were unreliable and that Gonzales bore sole responsibility.

Wagstaffe said prosecutors were pleased with the outcome.

“This time, we finally got him,” he said.

tbarak@examiner.com  

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