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Murder in La Veta

by Eric Mullens
LA VETA / WALSENBURG — The dream of a better life in the United States has ended for two young men; one the victim of a fatal stabbing and the other held in connection with that allegation.
Roberto Lopez, 22, appeared in front of District Court Judge Claude Appel Tuesday afternoon and through an interpreter, heard he was being held without bond on a charge of second degree murder. District Attorney Frank Ruybalid and Clay McKisson appeared for the state. Lopez was represented by Deputy State public Defender Patrick McCarville.
Lopez has been charged with the stabbing death of Eraclio Lopez-Lopez on Sunday, January 6, 2013 at a mobile home located in the 600 block of E. Ryus in La Veta.
Officers from the La Veta Marshal’s Office, Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office, Walsenburg Police, Colorado Bureau of Investigation and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, worked throughout the night Sunday into Monday conducting interviews in La Veta and searching for the suspect.
At approximately 5:47 pm Monday, Lopez rented a room at the Anchor Motel in Walsenburg and Nikki Eccher, co-owner of the business, called 911 and advised dispatch personnel that a Hispanic male had rented a motel room. Huerfano County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Albano, obtained a photo of the suspect (from the victim’s brother’s phone) and showed it to Eccher. Once identification was believed to have been made, Albano and other law enforcement personnel attempted to make contact with the suspect at the motel. No one answered the door at the motel room. A short time later, authorities were notified that a male, believed to be the suspect was at the Carl’s Jr. restaurant. An employee whose boyfriend allegedly worked with the suspect, contacted police. Walsenburg Police Chief James Chamberlain and WPD Cpl. Joe Deatherage made contact with the suspect in the restaurant and he was taken into custody without incident.
The arrest warrant affidavit prepared by La Veta Deputy Marshal Tracy Bonham included summaries of a number of witness statements taken by law enforcement that indicate there was an altercation sometime between 8 and 9 pm Sunday involving a number of people who lived at, or were visiting the home.
The victim, Eraclio Lopez-Lopez, was pronounced dead at the scene by Deputy Huerfano County Coroner Dave Mower at 11:25 pm Sunday.
The victim suffered a single fatal stab wound.
The victim’s brother, Juan Lopez, was at the mobile home when the alleged fatal attack happened, but told investigators he was not an eye witness. The group of people at the residence had been drinking and Juan Lopez told investigators he dozed off and was awakened by a sound and saw his brother slumped in a semi-seated position in the kitchen. He said he saw blood on the floor and went to help his brother. He said he sat on the floor and cradled his brother’s head in his arms. The affidavit says, “he asked his brother if he had been stabbed and his brother attempted to respond, then stopped breathing.”
The victim’s brother said Roberto Lopez was standing near his brother by the front door and when he looked up again, Lopez was gone.
ICE Special Agent Robert S. Berton advised the suspect has a number of aliases but he believes his correct family name to be Roberto Lopez-Flores. That federal agency has also placed a no-bond hold on the suspect, as he is believed to be an illegal alien.
During the first appearance hearing on Tuesday, the court ordered the crime scene to remain secured at least until the defendant’s next appearance at 1:30 pm, Thursday, Jan. 24.