Suspect indicted in 9-year-old homicide

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff

A Clovis man has been charged in a nine-year-old murder case, District Attorney Matt Chandler said.
Lorenzo Chavez, 56, was indicted late Friday for first-degree murder in connection with the 1998 shooting death of 47-year-old Daniel Jose Lopez.

Chavez is a twice-convicted killer who returned to Clovis in the late 1990s after serving more than 20 years in the 1972 stabbing death of a Cannon Air Force Base airman and the 1981 death of a fellow inmate during prison riots, Chandler said.

He’s now serving a nine-year sentence in the Department of Corrections for receiving a stolen vehicle. He was to be paroled in January, Chandler said, but prosecutors will ask he remain in the DoC without bond pending trial in the Lopez case.

Police responded to a shots-fired call in the 1100 block of Ross Street around 2 a.m. on Sept. 15, 1998, but couldn’t pinpoint the origin of the shots. Later that morning a neighbor discovered Lopez’ body inside his residence at 1108 Ross Street, Chandler said.

Chavez was a suspect early in the investigation, Police Chief Dan Blair said, but police were not able to develop enough evidence for an arrest.

Last month, law officers received new information that rejuvenated the investigation, Blair said.

Witnesses were reinterviewed, evidence re-examined and a stronger case came together, Blair said.

Blair declined to comment on specific evidence or witness statements in the case.

Saturday morning, Lopez’ mother Paula Rodriguez was making gingerbread houses with her great-grandchildren at her Clovis home.

“When I heard the news I was so happy I was crying and laughing. I was just thrilled that my son had not been forgotten. He wasn’t just left on the back burner somewhere,” she said.

She said the lack of arrests in connection with her son’s death was with her daily.

“I have not put up a (Christmas) tree, I have not been able to do anything. I was heavy laden (but) since (Friday’s indictment), I’ve been feeling (lighter) … At least I can get into the Christmas spirit,” Rodriguez said.

Chandler said David Loera, an agent with the District Attorney’s office who formerly worked for the Clovis Police Department, has pursued information in the slaying since it happened.

Fresh leads and information Loera received in November prompted him to ask the Major Crimes Unit, a consortium of regional law-enforcement agencies, to review and assist in the case, Chandler said.

Rodriguez said she is filled with thankfulness for the work done to keep her son’s case alive.

“I understand they’ve been burning the midnight oil over there. I just don’t have words for how thankful I am. I prayed for it and I believed. I was just trying to be very patient,” she said.