1994 Cal State Fullerton student murder trial: Opening statements begin

ByEileen Frere and Marc Cota-Robles KABC logo
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
1994 Cal State Fullerton student murder trial begins
Opening statements got underway Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of killing a Cal State Fullerton student in 1994.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Opening statements got underway Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of killing a Cal State Fullerton student in 1994.

Cathy Torrez was killed on Feb. 12, 1994 after leaving her job at a local Sav-On store. The 20-year-old honor student from Placentia was missing for a week before her mutilated body was found in the trunk of her car. Her vehicle was found in the parking lot of Placentia-Linda Hospital. Investigators say Torrez was stabbed to death.

"Her throat had been slashed. She was slashed so many times it's difficult to count how many," said prosecutor Matt Murphy.

Following her disappearance, Torrez's family tried to reach Samuel Lopez, Torrez's on-again, off-again boyfriend, who lived across the street.

"As the days go on, day-by-day, Sam never came to the house, never took the 50-foot journey across the street," Murphy said.

Lopez was arrested in her death back in 2007, but a series of motions have delayed the trial until now.

Lopez was charged with murder with the special circumstance of torture. He also faces a sentencing enhancement for the dangerous or deadly use of a weapon.

Lopez's cousin, Xavier Lopez, is also charged in the murder. He is set to go to trial separately with a court date in March.

The defense told jurors Samuel Lopez had nothing to do with Torrez's murder and that investigators did not find his DNA or prints on the victim's car. They claimed Xavier Lopez was the killer.

"Xavier Lopez was the killer. Xavier Lopez killed Cathy Torrez -- all the physical evidence points to that," said Lew Rosenblum, Samuel Lopez's attorney.

Murphy told jurors about Samuel Lopez's issues involving jealousy, and how Samuel Lopez had asked Torrez to elope with him.

"Mr. Murphy saying [Samuel Lopez] had a motive because she didn't want to elope with him -- Mr. Murphy can say whatever he wants. It doesn't make it true" Rosenblum said.

Co-defendant Armando Lopez, Samuel Lopez's older brother, was charged with being an accessory after the fact and is next due in court in May. The cousins allegedly provided alibis for each other after Torrez's body was found, according to prosecutors.

Thursday will mark 21 years since Torrez's murder. It took many years for police to wait for improved forensic technology, which helped them link evidence to Samuel Lopez.

City News Service contributed to this report.