Psychology Professor Pleads Guilty in Killing of Alleged Rapist

Psychology Professor Pleads Guilty in Killing of Alleged Rapist
Norma Patricia Esparza
Bruce Chambers/AP

09/16/2014 AT 09:45 PM EDT

A psychology professor, whose case made international headlines, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 1995 killing of the man she claimed raped her – out of concern for her daughter, says a longtime friend.

The plea agreement accepted by Norma Patricia Esparza on Sept. 12, which will carry a six-year state prison sentence, was made to minimize the amount of time spent away from her 5-year-old daughter, Arianna.

"She was terrified of being away from Arianna and the prospect of life in prison was just unbearable," says childhood friend Susan Peterson.

Esparza, 40, who currently lives in France, teaches at a university in Geneva and has consulted for the World Health Organization, had been offered a plea deal by the Orange County District Attorney last November that would have resulted in a three-year sentence, but she vowed to fight the charges.

Esparza proclaimed her innocence in the group killing of Gonzalo Ramirez, 24, who she told a grand jury had raped her in her dorm room at Pomona College. The body of Ramirez, who had been hacked to death with a meat cleaver, was found on a dead-end road in Irvine, California, in April 1995.

In her grand jury testimony, Esparza said her then-boyfriend – who, along with another friend, will stand trial for the murder in January – forced her to identify Ramirez several days after the alleged assault. She insisted that she never intended for him to be killed.

As part of her plea deal, Esparza, whose case has been championed by sexual assault survivors, agreed to testify against the two men.

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