A 21-year-old man and his female friend killed a man known for carrying hundreds of dollars in cash in a “robbery gone wrong” that led to the victim falling out of his pickup truck and being dragged to death in Anaheim, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.
Jasper Bear Belknap is charged with murder with a special circumstance allegation for murder during a robbery.
Co-defendant Diana Carolina Lopez, 29, pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter. Lopez, who is expected to be sentenced to 11 years in prison after the trial, has agreed to testify against Belknap.
They are accused of killing 45-year-old Felipe Viera Lugo on June 16, 2015.
Anaheim police were called about 11 p.m. that night to respond to a report of a man thrown out of a vehicle at 1903 W. Embassy Ave., Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark Birney said.
Lugo worked for 15 years for a construction company, Birney said.
Lugo met Lopez about a month before the killing. At the time he was staying in motels and sometimes sleeping in his pickup truck, Birney said.
“He met the wrong woman… and maybe he fell in love with her,” Birney said, adding Lopez was “a bit of a street hustler.”
Lopez caught on that Lugo often carried hundreds of dollars of cash in his wallet so the two defendants concocted a plan to rob him, Birney said.
Lopez was driving and Lugo was in the passenger seat while Belknap hid in the pickup with a knife, Birney said.
When Belknap attempted to rob Lugo in the Ford F-150 a struggle ensued and the victim partially tumbled out of the vehicle as Lopez kept driving and dragged Lugo, Birney said.
“Diana Lopez and Jasper Bear Belknap hatched a dimwitted plan to rob Mr. Lugo,” Birney said. “And when that robbery went bad, Mr. Lugo died and died because of (them).”
Belknap’s attorney, Rob Harley, told jurors that Lopez was the real villain in the case.
“Diana Lopez was a 27-year-old homeless hood rat,” Harley said. “She was a part-time prostitute who preys on vulnerable men.”
When jurors were not in the courtroom, Harley told Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard King that his client has “special needs” and was raised by a grandmother when his parents abandoned him.
“I’m trying to suggest she’s working over these two men,” Harley said of Lopez.
Belknap told jurors his client was 19 when he met Lopez. Lugo was an “undocumented immigrant, who came to America to chase the American dream,” Harley said.
Lugo “was a lonely man looking for love in all the wrong places and looking for love in all the wrong faces, specifically Diana Lopez,” Harley said.
Harley will complete his opening statement in the trial on Tuesday.
–City News Service