Teen’s killing tragic, strange

Suspect allegedly fled to Mexico, returned and was found in a ditch

The story of Melissa Esquivel-Flores’ death is both complicated and strange, starting in Butte County, leading to Mexico and then ending tragically just outside of Orland. The 16-year-old girl who grew up in Nord and attended Hamilton Union High School is remembered as being hardworking and well-liked. Photographs depict a teenager with both a fun-loving spirit and darker complexity. We now know of some of the torment she faced, and endured, allegedly at the hands of a family friend.

On July 4, Glenn County Sheriff’s deputies discovered Esquivel-Flores’ body in a farm worker’s shop in Orland with a gunshot wound to the head. The “person of interest” in her death, which has been deemed a homicide, is in custody. But that person of interest, 53-year-old Alfredo Rodriguez Ruvalcaba, has not been charged in her killing. Not yet. Instead, he was taken into custody July 5 on a Butte County warrant for continued sexual assault on a minor. That minor was Esquivel-Flores.

“At age 12, we accused him of grooming her for sexual abuse, which occurred when she was 13 and 14,” Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey explained by phone. Ruvalcaba was arraigned on Feb. 4, 2013, and released on $1 million bail. When he was next expected in court, later that month, he never showed up.

“That’s the last we heard from him until recently,” Ramsey said. “In between that time, though, we did hear from the bail bondsman who was able to locate him down in Mexico. We looked at extraditing him … and contacted the U.S. Department of Justice liaison with the Mexican authorities and asked them to assist. But we were told not to waste our time …”

Apparently, Mexico will extradite people only if the crime they committed is also considered a crime in Mexico, Ramsey explained. In that country, the age of consent is 12. “So we were advised to leave the warrant out and not pursue the extradition,” he said. “Then we find out he’s back when he is detained on our warrant by the Glenn County authorities.”

That story in itself is an eyebrow-raiser. Late on July 5, a day after Esquivel-Flores’ body was found, the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office received a call of a man lying unconscious in a ditch. That man turned out to be Ruvalcaba.

“We sent our deputies out there and found him unconscious in the ditch,” said Glenn County Sheriff Richard Warren by phone. “We identified him and realized he was related to the incident we were investigating.”

Ruvalcaba was taken into custody but brought to a medical facility for treatment for his condition, which Warren said he could not specify due to HIPAA regulations. “I can say that he was not the victim of an assault by any other person,” he said, adding that he had a medical condition that was “related to something he’d done to himself or the elements of being out in the weather.”

Ruvalcaba was named the person of interest in Esquivel-Flores’ killing immediately, Warren said.

“The proximity of where he was found was in close relationship with where our victim was found,” he said. “We were able to identify him as the property owner where our victim was found. And there was a history between the victim and him.”

On Tuesday (July 14), Ruvalcaba was released from the medical facility and into Glenn County sheriff’s custody. He will soon be turned over to Butte County on the warrant there, Warren said. He has not yet been charged in the killing of Esquivel-Flores.

“As long as he’s in custody, we’re going to take our time and make sure we’re doing everything properly,” he said. “We don’t want to rush that process.”