Man Acquitted in Dragging Death During Botched Robbery

An Orange County jury Tuesday acquitted a man who was charged with the murder of a man who was dragged to death during a botched 2015 robbery attempt in Anaheim.

During the trial, Jasper Bear Belknap's attorney laid blame for the killing on co-defendant Diana Carolina Lopez, who pleaded guilty earlier to voluntary manslaughter and is expected to be sentenced to 11 years in prison.

"Diana Lopez was a 27-year-old homeless hood rat," defense attorney Rob Harley told jurors. "She was a part-time prostitute who preys on vulnerable men."

Lopez and Belknap were both charged with the June 16, 2015, death of 45- year-old Felipe Viera Lugo in what prosecutors called a "robbery gone wrong."

Prosecutors said Lopez had learned that Lugo -- whom she had met about a month before the crime -- often carried hundreds of dollars of cash in his wallet, so the two defendants concocted a plan to rob him.

Lopez was driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck and Lugo was in the passenger seat while Belknap hid in the pickup with a knife, Deputy District Attorney Mark Birney said. When Belknap attempted to rob Lugo, a struggle ensued and Lugo partially tumbled out of the vehicle as Lopez kept driving and dragged Lugo, Birney said.

He was found dead in the 1900 block of West Embassy Avenue.

"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)."

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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