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Professor jailed after rejecting plea deal in murder case

LOS ANGELES - A Swiss professor accused of helping arrange the murder of a man who she says raped her when she was a college student in California was jailed on Thursday after rejecting a plea deal.

Norma Patricia Esparza, 39, was arrested after a hearing in Orange County Superior Court at which prosecutors said she was no longer cooperating with them.

According to CBS Los Angeles, Esparza said could lose her career and everything if she accepted the deal.

Under the terms of that deal, murder charges filed against her in December 2012 would have been reduced to voluntary manslaughter and consequently a lesser prison term.

Orange County District Attorney's spokeswoman Farrah Emami said, "Her two options are to change her plea and proceed that way or go to a jury trial."

Emami said Esparza, who was born in Mexico and lives in France with her husband and young daughter, was also considered a potential flight risk. She had been free on $300,000 bail for the past year because prosecutors had considered her a "cooperating defendant," Emami said.

Esparza, an assistant professor at Webster University in Geneva, is charged along with three other people in the April 16, 1995, murder of 25-year-old Gonzalo Ramirez in Irvine, California.

Esparza's co-defendants Gianni Anthony Van, 44, Shannon Ray Gries, 42, and Diane Tran, 45, are being held without bond in the case and are next due in court in January.

Esparza is accused of pointing out Ramirez to Van, Gries and Tran's late husband Kody Tran, who allegedly kidnapped and stabbed the victim to death. Kody Tran was killed during a shootout with police in July 2012.

Esparza is due in court on Dec. 23 for a preliminary hearing.

Jorge Mancillas, Esparza’s husband, told CNS his wife was raped by Ramirez in March 1995 when she was a 20-year-old student at Pomona College in Southern California and that Van, who was then her boyfriend, reacted angrily when he found out.

Esparza was arrersted in 1996 in connection with Ramirez' death but prosecutors declined to press charges against her at the time.