After 25 years, Visalia man sentenced to life in prison

FRESNO, Calif. Wednesday's sentencing of Steven Gomez came after decades of mourning and anguish for Dixie Ricks' family.

DNA evidence finally revealed Gomez was the man who raped and killed the woman 25 years ago.

65-year-old Steven Gomez did not react as a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the rape and murder of 43-year-old Dixie Ricks.

Gomez's sentencing was emotional for friends and family of the mother of six children who've waited 25 years to face her killer.

The victims friend Lydia Garcia said, "He had no right taking Dixie from JP and Tammy and he had no right taking her from her children and good friend.

In court Dixie Rick's son read a letter on behalf of his father and Dixie's husband who many suspected was responsible for her death.

The victim's son, J.P. Ricks said, "I would also like to thank your honor, the attorneys and investigators for helping me finally prove something that has been tearing at my heart for the past 25 years my innocence in this case."

When police found Steven Gomez he was still living in the North Visalia neighborhood where he raped and murdered ricks, as she was on her way home from Shannon's Bar now called "The Blitz." in January 1985.

Gomez was linked to ricks' murder in 2001 after a Visalia police investigator submitted DNA from the case into a national DNA database.

In 2006-- Gomez had to provide a DNA sample when he was updating his sex offender registration.

Prosecutor David Alavezos said, "Within a matter of a couple of months they had a chance to get that profile it was sent to the data base and a match was determined

"You don't know how much closure it's really been uptight for all of these years without knowing what happened who it was we thought they had him in jail then they didn't have him in jail," said Patricia Zafrani, the victim's sister.

For Dixie Ricks' family, Gomez's sentencing also brings an end to a long and painful time in their lives.

"I've had this big empty void all these years and now finally I get closure and I can say she can truthfully rest in peace," Zafrani said.

Wednesday Steven Gomez was also sentenced for two other sexual assault and robbery cases that date back to the 60s and 70s.

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