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O.C. man convicted in slaying of jewelry salesman

April 4, 2012 |  7:24 pm

A 27-year-old Santa Ana man was convicted Wednesday of scheming with his mother to rob and kill a jewelry salesman.

Ricardo Dagoberto Diaz-Nivarez was found guilty by jurors of one felony count of first-degree murder in the slaying of gem salesman Mario Hernandez, 78, of Santa Ana. He faces 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced May 18, said Orange County prosecutors.

Hernandez disappeared March 18, 2005, after leaving home to show jewelry to a client. Although his remains were never found, his gasoline-doused van was found abandoned and police labeled the case a homicide.

Diaz-Nivarez's mother, co-defendant Rebeca Nivarez, 47, of Garden Grove, was found guilty on felony counts of first-degree murder and second-degree robbery on Feb. 1, 2011. She was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison late last April.

Prosecutors said Nivarez robbed Hernandez and murdered him with the help of her son.  She later pawned several pieces of jewelry at Santa Ana pawnshops.

Hernandez's family learned from his cellphone company that the last numbers he dialed were to Nivarez's phone number. She was arrested after more than a yearlong investigation.

Her son fled to Mexico but was extradited back to Orange County by Mexican authorities, according to Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Yellin.


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-- Bob Pool