Friends and relatives of a slain Santa Ana teenager mourned him Thursday and said his stepfather, jailed on suspicion of murder, was jealous of the attention the boy received from his mother.
Francisco M. Gonzalez, 58, was arrested late Wednesday in the slaying of his stepson, Mario Espinobarros, 14, a Santa Ana High School freshman whose body was found Tuesday in a ditch near Irvine.
Orange County sheriff's deputies found a fully clothed body in a creek bed in the 11000 block of Jeffrey Road on Tuesday afternoon. An autopsy Wednesday showed that the boy died from a blow to the head.
Sheriff's deputies matched the body, through a missing-person report, to Mario, who disappeared last Friday. They said the Santa Ana man's jealousy over attention his new wife paid to her teenage son may have been part of his motive, but they declined to elaborate.
Forensics experts are reviewing items collected at Gonzalez's home in Santa Ana to determine if any were used as a weapon in the slaying, Lt. Tom Garner said.
Meanwhile, friends and family gathered Thursday to mourn the teenager.
"My son just wanted to be something," said his mother, Maria del Carmen Sosa Anzures, 40. "I don't believe it."
She married Gonzalez in October to gain citizenship, family members and friends said. And Gonzalez "wanted to have a woman there for him. He was tired of being alone," said Alex Saldana, 24, a friend of the mother and son since they immigrated here nine years ago.
In time, friends and family members said, Gonzalez became increasingly attached to his new wife and unhappy about the attention she paid to her son.
"He had a lot of jealousy," Saldana said. "He thought Carmen was giving love to Mario instead of to him. He took her love for Mario the wrong way."
The tragedy began last Friday night when Mario--who Sosa believed was playing video games at a local arcade--did not return home. After reporting the boy missing, Sosa became suspicious that her husband was involved in his disappearance after she noticed bloodstains on his clothing Saturday.
A teacher described Mario as a good student who, despite his limited English, was self-assured and played class clown.
"He was always making people laugh in class," math teacher Emil Barham said. "He was always spouting off, but in a good way."
Mario "would have done very well in his life," Barham said. "He had all the capability and potential to be something . . . and that was taken from him. That saddens and angers me."
Friends said Mario will be buried in Mexico. The family requests that any donations be forwarded to St. Joseph's Church in Santa Ana.
Times correspondent Jason Kandel contributed to this story.