Artois man found guilty of first-degree murder of teen

·4 min read

Jan. 29—An Artois mas was found guilty on Tuesday of the first-degree murder of a teen that was killed in 2015.

Alfredo Rodriguez Ruvalcaba, 60, who was arrested and charged with the death of 16-year-old Melissa Esquivel-Flores showed little emotion on Tuesday as the verdict was read in a modified Glenn County Superior courtroom at the Glenn County Fairgrounds in Orland.

Glenn County District Attorney officials said Ruvalcaba drove to the home of Esquivel-Flores in Nord on July 4, 2015, and brought her back to his shop in Artois while she was wearing only a bra and underwear. After having sex with her, Ruvalcaba is believed to have shot the victim in the face with a shotgun.

At the time of the investigation, deputies learned Esquivel-Flores had last been seen by her father at their residence in the late evening of July 3 during a gathering that Ruvalcaba also attended.

Esquivel-Flores was found dead on July 4 in a shop at 3619 County Road D near County Road 28 southwest of Orland by her father around 1:14 p.m. Ruvalcaba, who was reported to have been a close friend of the girl's family, was confirmed to be associated with the shop where the teen was found.

"The girl's father had been looking everywhere for his daughter," said Detective Greg Felton in 2016. "He stopped at the shop when he saw (Alfredo) Ruvalcaba's truck parked at the shop."

The next day, Ruvalcaba was found lying in a roadside ditch just one mile from where the body of Esquivel-Flores had been found.

The Glenn County Sheriff's Office said Ruvalcaba was suffering from an undisclosed medical condition. He was arrested on an arrest warrant out of the Chico Police Department and transported to a medical facility for treatment. In his jail booking photograph, his face had cuts and contusions.

Felton said Ruvalcaba's truck was found at the 3619 County Road shop where the Chico teen's body was found and detectives also recovered the shotgun believed to be the weapon used in the girl's death.

In January 2016, Glenn County Sheriff's detectives, in cooperation with the Glenn County District Attorney's Office, obtained an arrest warrant for Ruvalcaba, charging him with suspicion of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sodomy, along with special allegations of use of a firearm in commission of a felony, including murder, sodomy and kidnapping.

During his testimony, Ruvalcaba said Esquivel-Flores willingly came with him to his shop the evening of July 3, 2015, and said they "made love" on a bed in the office. After going outside to urinate, Ruvalcaba said he returned to find Esquivel-Flores looking down the barrel of a shotgun, with her foot near the trigger.

"It was very quick — the shot went off," said Ruvalcaba. "I had no time to do anything."

Ruvalcaba said he then attempted to kill himself with the same shotgun but missed and grazed his lip with the bullet. He then took 40 anti-anxiety pills, drank some beer and a bottle of tequila and walked out into an orchard.

Prior to her death, Ruvalcaba was also accused of sexually abusing Esquivel-Flores when she was 12 and 13 years old. He was arrested in Butte County in January 2013 on the sexual abuse charges but posted $1 million bail and fled to Mexico. Butte County officials were unsuccessful in having him extradited, and it is unknown when he returned to the U.S.

After six and a half years of litigation and a 10-day homicide trial, the case was handed over to a jury of eight women and four men at about 10 a.m. on Tuesday and the verdict was read just before 5 p.m. Although Ruvalcaba was convicted of the first-degree murder with use of a firearm charge, the jury was split on the kidnapping charge 7-5, which means that part of the case was declared a mistrial.

The case was prosecuted by District Attorney Dwayne Stewart with assistance from Felton, DA Chief Investigator Kelly Knight and others.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place March 11 at the Glenn County Superior Court in Willows, starting at 11 a.m. and Ruvalcaba faces the possibility of life without the possibility of parole. The original charges filed in the case included first-degree murder and sodomy of a minor, for which the district attorney planned to seek the death penalty but the DA's office decided to drop capital punishment in 2016 in favor of pursuing life in prison without the possibility of parole due to a lack of evidence for one of the charges.

Ruvalcaba's attorney Jesse Santana said he will be appealing the murder verdict and was confident that the conviction would be overturned.