TODAY

TODAY   |  November 29, 2013

Professor Norma Patricia Esparza speaks out from jail

University professor and mother Norma Patricia Esparza has plead not guilty to the murder charges against her over a man who she says raped her 18 years ago. NBC News’ Andrea Canning reports.

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>> and respected professor facing trial for the murder of a man that she says raped her. you sat down with her in jail for her first indepth interview.

>> yes. it was a powerful interview. patricia esparza was offered a deal. plead guilty to manslaughter for three years behind bars. she turned it down because she refuses to plead guilty for something she didn't do. she is saying she had nothing to do with the murder of the man that raped her.

>> never ever did i make any indication that i wanted him to be harmed.

>> reporter: she overcame a childhood of poverty and abuse to become a psychology professor and raise a child in switzerland. now she sits in this jail facing a potential life sentence for the murder of a man she says raped her in her college dorm room. she never reported the rape to police but told her former boyfriend. he became so enraged he forced her to join him and associates and they confronted ramirez.

>> what was your role in that? what happened to you that night?

>> i was dragged, pressured, bullied intimidated into that night when they actually took ramirez.

>> reporter: he was found beaten to death but esparza says she left that night never knowing that he had been murdered.

>> i never saw him dead but i was terrorized by the violence that i witnessed.

>> reporter: she says he frightened him into keeping quite and even coerced her to marry him so she couldn't testify against him.

>> it just hurts me that i had been raped and instead of consoling me he destroyed the rest of my life. you know, the abuse was difficult. the rape was difficult. but dragging me through that night haunts me.

>> reporter: she remarried and had had a child abroad. she hugged her husband in court.

>> she is desperate to make herself the victim on this case. she is not a victim on this case. she is a defendant on this case.

>> reporter: she and van and two others face a murder trial. there are definitely a lot of inaccuracies in esparza 's claims. they all pled not guilty but she and her family say this cold case is only going forward because she told prosecutors what happened.

>> they would have let me go if i had stayed quite but i decided i'm not going to fight extradition. i'm a lot older now. i can't continue to be afraid by these people.

>> when prosecutors first contacted her they said we know you were a victim but once she told her story they changed her mind and charged her as a co-defendant. we'll know more about the evidence when the preliminary hearing comes up next month. it could come down to the word of that of her against her boyfriend.

>> you also have a date line out of georgia?

>> this is a cold case solved by new dna technology. nothing new there. it's what happened after the case was closed that literally shocked everyone in the story including all of us at dateline. it unfolded before our eyes and it's one of the weirdest stories i have ever covered.

>> well, there's a tease.

>> there's a plug.

>> one of the weirdest. and you have covered some weird things.

>> yeah and i couldn't wait to come face to face with one of the people in this hour to challenge -- it was just very bizarre.

>> interesting.

>> we'll be watching that. thanks andrea.

>> dylan dreyer is here with a check of the weather, right?

>> yeah.

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