MANHATTAN BEACH: Ex-suspect in slaying of housekeeper finds hope as inmate is arraigned. By Denise Nix STAFF WRITER As Milton Gallardo made his first court appearance Thursday in the rape and murder of a housekeeper in Manhattan Beach, the man first accused of the crime said he’s still struggling to get his life back. Herbert Gonzalez, 28, said in an interview Thursday that he has no connection to Gallardo or the victim, 39-year-old Libia Cabrera of Lawndale. Gonzalez said he wants to see justice in the case – as much for Cabrera’s family as for himself. “That’s the only thing that will ultimately clear me, and clear my name,” Gonzalez said. Gonzalez said he has felt bad for Cabrera’s family ever since the days when he would see them in court, when they thought he was involved in her rape and murder. “I can never imagine something like this happening to my mom,” he said. “It would destroy me.” Gonzalez has suffered his own pain, though, in the aftermath of the ordeal. He lost his job in the accounting department at an investment firm when he was arrested in January 2006. To pay his legal bills, his mother took out another mortgage on her Los Angeles home of 30 years. Gonzalez and his fiancee, who have been together since he was 13 years old, now live with his mother. And even though he’s been having trouble getting work, he does what he can to help pay her bills. He did get a job with the International House of Pancakes’ corporate offices when he was released. But when the television show “America’s Most Wanted” re-ran a segment in December that called him an outstanding suspect, he was fired. His criminal defense attorney, Joseph Shemaria, then gave him a job as a legal assistant at his law firm. At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez had just signed a deal with Virgin Records to play the saxophone and clarinet on two albums. But the deal, which included a tour with a stop at Madison Square Garden in New York, was pulled when he was in jail. For now, he has put his dreams of music, a wedding and a home on hold. “All of that was taken from me,” Gonzalez said. “It’s very hard because I worked hard all my life to stay on track. I’m a good person.” Unlike the case against Gonzalez, police now have DNA evidence linking Cabrera’s alleged killer to the crimes, prosecutors say. Gallardo, 25, was ordered to turn over a sample of his DNA following a conviction earlier this year for a car theft conviction. The specimen was added to the state law enforcement’s database, and allegedly matched DNA left on Cabrera when she was raped April 11, 2005. Gallardo, a Hawthorne resident, was an inmate at Wasco State Prison in Kern County when he was charged in the killing on Oct. 3. Cabrera, a mother of two, was bound and gagged, raped, and her neck was slashed at the home where she worked as a housekeeper. Her killer likely ignited a trail of clothes and bed linens that had been strung from an electric wall heater to her unclothed body, prosecutors say. They believe the fire was set to cover up the crimes. During his brief arraignment Thursday before Judge Thomas R. Sokolov in Torrance Superior Court, Gallardo pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and denied the special circumstances of killing during a burglary. The special circumstances make him eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors have not yet decided whether he should face the possibility of lethal injection. Deputy District Attorney Jodi Link declined to give any more information about the case, including possible connections Gallardo had to Cabrera or the crime scene. Gonzalez was connected to the crime scene by a neighbor of Cabrera’s who was shown security video captured outside the apartment where Cabrera died in the 100 block of 28th Street. In the video, a man was seen walking around the Manhattan Beach neighborhood. The neighbor told sheriff’s homicide detectives she thought the man looked like Gonzalez, a cousin of her husband, according to evidence presented at Gonzalez’s March 2006 preliminary hearing. Investigators said they also believed the man, whose face isn’t clear but who had a receding hairline and prominent forehead, looked like Gonzalez. The case against Gonzalez was dismissed, however, when a judge determined that prosecutors could not use a confession he made to detectives because it was coerced. Gonzalez had originally denied knowing anything about the murder, but then – because he was ill, the detectives were unrelenting and he wanted the interrogation to end – he said he participated in it with his cousin. A white pickup truck also seen in the video footage was driven by his cousin, he told the detectives. But a contractor later came forward and said the truck belonged to him, and that he was working on a project in the area, said John Burton, Gonzalez’s civil attorney. Gonzalez, who served 195 days in jail, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county, the Sheriff’s Department and the detectives who interrogated him. “We feel he was arrested without probable cause, and that he was subjected to prosecution based on fabricated evidence,” Burton said. Attorneys representing the county were not available for comment. “I look at this case, and this is just the most depraved, gruesome crime – I just can’t imagine anything worse,” Burton added. “But to go off half-cocked like this? The whole investigation was so wacky.” [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! 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