A Visalia woman, aged 74, who had a roommate for a brief period is suspected of having been murdered by her roommate.
Members of Rafaela Espindola’s family are still grieving the loss of their loved one and attempting to make sense of the circumstances surrounding her suspected murder by her roommate Michael Major on February 20. Espindola was the grandmother to twenty grandchildren.
According to the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, Major, 54, has been charged with one count of murder with specific charges of use of a deadly weapon, sexual assault by force, assault with chemicals, and a hate crime.
“What’s really sad is one of the last things she’d told us about her roommate was that (Major) seemed like a nice man, and she was trying to help get him back on his feet,” granddaughter Yenizel Rizzo said. “She said she’d cooked for him and told us he enjoyed her food.
“My grandmother was a quiet person and kept to herself. But she also was a loving woman and would try to take care of those around her. Then this happened.”
An additional assault accusation stems from an incident where Major reportedly struck a restaurant worker with a 10-inch sledgehammer. He is also being charged with a hate crime related to that incident.
Found Blood In The Stairwell
Visalia police say that after interviewing Major about a violent attack at Nash’s Steakhouse, Major directed them to a residence on the 500 block of North Stevenson Street.
The victim’s family claims that Major and Espindola shared living quarters there for the past two to three months with a third roommate who is 80 or older.
Rizzo claimed that her family discovered a large amount of blood in the corridor that led from her grandmother’s master bedroom to Major’s subleased room.
According to the criminal complaint, Espindola was murdered by being hit over the head with a hammer.
Espindola, a Mexican immigrant who has made her home in Visalia for the better part of four decades, had been renting out a room in her house to different people for a long time. Not to mention, she rarely had problems before.
According to a message on a GoFundMe website to assist in covering her family’s funeral expenses, “she rented a room to a man who unknowingly to her, had mental disorders, and was murdered by him” when she subleased to Major.
“My grandmother wasn’t the kind to do a background check,” Rizzo added. That’s not how she viewed people’s histories at all. She accepted individuals for who they were and generally kept to themselves.
Fresno Bee also covered the news on his official Twitter account:
Police discovered the victim after arresting the suspect following a separate attack with a sledgehammer at a steakhouse. https://t.co/YkPRlRQp15
— Fresno Bee (@FresnoBee) March 5, 2023
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Hate Speech Written On Papers
Rizzo often welcomed out-of-town relatives to spend the holidays with him and his roommates, despite the limitations of his small apartment.
“If she had us come over, she’d make sure to go to the market and she’d cook fresh goat for us,” Rizzo recalled. “She also lived next to an orange orchard and gave us oranges all the time.
“Just a very caring person.”
Espindola’s family may not know how she met Major, but Rizzo claims that her grandmother always found reliable companions through word of mouth.
Rizzo stated that authorities informed the family that the third roommate, an older guy, was not present at the time of Espindola’s death.
Rizzo claimed that it was found out that Major kept notebooks and notes in his room.
Among them, Rizzo claims, was a note from Major’s room that said, “Only God can judge me,” and several others on which Bible verses were scribbled.
According to Rizzo, several of the publications also contained hate rhetoric.
According to her family, Espindola had recently overcome breast cancer and was on the mend after completing chemotherapy.
“She was just trying to get back to her normal life,” Rizzo said. “That alone was really scary for our family. What we’re dealing with now, it’s just so surreal.
“You’re sad. You’re scared. You’re upset.”
If found guilty of all charges, Major might spend the rest of his life behind bars.
We currently have this much information regarding his demise. We will keep you informed as new information becomes available. Follow our Twitter account to learn about current events in the world.