Veronica Paz and Brandan Perry murdered Diego Gonzalez in a love triangle
The city of Orange, California is better known for its beautiful weather than for its sensational homicides. But on November 10, 2003, young people made the macabre discovery of the body of a young man. near a house construction site.
The victim was shot and set on fire, according to Dan Salcedo, a retired Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigator. A pool of clotted blood near his body showed he had been killed hours earlier.
“The indication may be someone trying to cover up the crime scene, hoping he was going to be burnt to the point of being unrecognizable,” Salcedo said. “The Real Orange County Murders,” aeration Sundays at 7 / 6c and 8 / 7c to Oxygen.
As investigators scrambled to identify the victim, an autopsy revealed that he had been shot in the forehead and in the mouth. The Sheriff’s Department has contacted the public to help name the victim, who has been identified as Diego Gonzalez, a 17-year-old high school wrestling champion.
Gonzalez, “a special young man … with a heart of gold,” according to his trainer, left home for a run on November 9 and never returned.
The police questioned people close to Diego. They started with his occasional girlfriend, another high school student in El Modena.
Investigators asked her where she was on the night of November 9. Investigators confirmed her story that she had been with family members and cleared her as a suspect.
Detectives turned to the Gonzalez family for leads. They revealed that there was another woman in Gonzalez’s life.
“Diego had a relationship from time to time with a woman who was a student who had since graduated from El Modena,” Salcedo said. Her name was Veronica Paz. She and Diego worked together in a grocery store.
Diego and Paz had “casual sex,” former TV journalist Tricia Takasugi said, adding that the age difference was striking.
On the evening of November 9, 2003, Diego told his brother that he was going for a run and that he was planning to meet Paz. Investigators spoke to Paz, who said she did not know his whereabouts and denied calling him to meet with him. Paz said she spent the evening with her friend Kim Gomez and then returned home.
Paz also said she was dating Brandan Perry, who had been a high school football star and was a year younger than her. During their relationship breakups, she met Diego. This made Perry jealous, according to sources.
During his interview with detectives, Perry said he met Diego in the summer of 2003 while at a party with Paz. He said he had nothing to do with Diego’s disappearance and that he had no idea what happened to him.
Perry said he was with his friend Tommy Medina at his home the night Diego went missing. He said he had returned home and was left home alone.
Gomez and Medina corroborated their friends’ alibis. As they broadened their scope, investigators learned that when Perry and Diego met at the party in 2003, one incident nearly turned violent. One of Diego’s buddies held up a gun. There was blood between the two involved with the same woman.
When investigators questioned Perry again, he changed his story. He said he may have been in the area of the crime scene due to his car detailing job. Perry was unable to name who his client was.
Police arrested Perry, who immediately requested a lawyer and halted further questioning. Before police could search Perry’s car and home, Paz unexpectedly showed up at the police station on November 13.
She told a different story than the one she originally had. Paz said she was with Perry when Diego called her to hook up on November 9. Paz said Perry wanted to message Diego.
Paz agreed to pick up Diego and took him with him to an isolated construction site. Both are mounted in the back seat. Perry surprised them both and pulled Diego out of the car. She was shocked, she told authorities, when Perry shot Diego twice. They left separately.
Paz said Perry called her and ordered her to return to the crime scene, where they poured gas on Diego’s body to set it on fire. They then joined Gomez and Medina to coordinate the alibis.
Paz’s interview gave the police more evidence against Perry. At the same time, she incriminated herself and was arrested. “She played a major role in what happened by bringing Diego up there knowing full well that it was likely going to happen that he was going to be shot,” said Salcedo.
As they built the case against Paz and Perry, investigators arrested Gomez and Medina as accomplices in murder because of false statements during their initial interviews.
“Tommy Medina told investigators this murder was instigated months before by Veronica,” Takasugi said. Paz and Perry had actually gone to the desert to test this weapon that they were going to use to kill Diego.
Gomez told police that Paz was not upset on the night of the murder and made it appear that she helped plan the murder. His motive? She didn’t like being used for casual sex. She felt like Gonzalez had “played” her as he tried to get back together with an ex-girlfriend, the Orange County register reported.
Detectives found evidence that Paz had purchased ammunition from Walmart that matched the slugs removed during Diego’s autopsy.
In 2004, Gomez and Medina pleaded guilty to being accomplices after the fact of a murder. Medina was sentenced to six days of incarceration and three years of probation. Gomez was sentenced to six months incarceration and three years probation, according to “The Real Murders of Orange County”.
Both agreed to testify against Paz and Perry, who had been charged with murder. On March 28, 2006, just before Perry’s trial began, he pleaded for first degree murder to have the death penalty taken off the table. He also agreed to testify against Paz.
Perry was sentenced to 25 years life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. On December 15, 2006, Paz was convicted of first degree murder. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison for life with the possibility of parole.
In 2008, two years after Paz was convicted of first degree murder, her case was quashed due to a technicality related to jury instructions. Paz was able plead guilty to second degree murder. His sentence was reduced from 15 years to life.
To find out more about the watch case, “The Real Orange County Murders,” aeration Sundays at 7 / 6c and 8 / 7c to Oxygen, or broadcast episodes here.