The former boyfriend of a 20-year-old Cal State Fullerton student killed 21 years ago was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder.

An Orange County Superior Court jury deliberated about two days before finding Samuel Agustin Lopez, now 43, guilty of the 1994 stabbing death of Cathy Torrez.

Lopez faces 26 years to life in prison, with sentencing set for May 1.

The victim’s brother was in the courtroom to hear the jury’s decision.

“To sit there and hear the verdict was surreal,” Marty Torrez told City News Service. “It’s a day we thought may never come. It really restored our faith in the justice system.”

Lopez’s attorney, Lew Rosenblum, said he respected the jury’s decision, but felt the panel wanted to hold someone responsible for stabbing the victim more than 70 times.

The attorney bemoaned that jurors did not buy his argument that his client could not have killed the victim. He said Lopez had alibi witnesses accounting for his movements the night prosecutors said she was killed, and also argued there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence tying him to the crime.

“It was a very emotional case, but I understand and respect their verdict,” Rosenblum told CNS.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy argued that Lopez killed his on-again, off-again girlfriend on Feb. 12, 1994, after she rejected his proposal to elope.

A now-retired Orange County forensic scientist testified that the victim was still alive when she was forced into the trunk of her car, where her body was found a week later in Placentia.

Torrez, who was repeatedly stabbed, had wounds to her neck, upper chest, head, chin, forearm, back and right thigh, along with cuts on her hands.

The victim’s brother and sister, Tina Mora, testified about the defendant’s apparent indifference to their sibling’s disappearance.

On the night she went missing after leaving work for a date with Lopez, the defendant’s sisters repeatedly tried to page him on his beeper but he did not respond, according to Mora, who was married at the time to Lopez’s older brother, Armando, and living with the Lopez family across the street from the Torrez residence.

Mora has since divorced Aramando Lopez, who is charged with being an accessory after the fact and is awaiting trial.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy told jurors that Samuel Lopez’s movements the night of the killing show he had the opportunity to commit the crime while with his cousin, Xavier “Javier” Lopez, who is awaiting trial on a murder charge.

Murphy argued that the defendant’s alibi witnesses the night of the killing consisted of his family members and essentially himself.

Rosenblum alleged that Javier Lopez killed the victim and acted alone to rob her for money for cocaine.

Murphy told reporters today that he was in negotiations with Javier Lopez’s attorney on a resolution of the case.

“Javier has been cooperative with investigators the last four or five years,” Murphy said.

— City News Service

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