Orange County

Man Sentenced For 1994 Stabbing Murder of Ex-Girlfriend

The case went dark for more than a decade until new DNA evidence provided new leads.

Shackled at the waist and sitting in an Orange County courtroom, a convicted killer heard his fate Friday and spoke to the family of the victim for the first time in nearly two decades.

Sam Lopez, 43, said over and over he was sorry for killing his on-again, off-again girlfriend Cathy Torrez 21 years ago. He apologized to the police, to the court and eventually to her family who listened on in the courtroom as the judge sentenced him to 26 years to life in prison.

He addressed the court and said, "None of them asked for this ... I brought them everything."

The 43-year-old cabinet maker was described as a jilted lover by prosecutors who killed his 20-year-old girlfriend in 1994.

"Your love for her was not love, it was betrayal," Claudia Cervantes told Lopez during his sentencing, Torrez's cousin.

Torrez, Cal State Fullerton student, disappeared after leaving work one February day. Her body was found in the trunk of her car a week after she went missing. She was repeatedly stabbed, had wounds to her neck, upper chest, head, chin, forearm, back and right thigh, along with cuts on her hands. She'd been stabbed 70 times.

There was no blood, no DNA, nothing that tied Lopez to her murder. The case went cold for more than a decade until new evidence provided new leads.

Sam Lopez and his cousin Xavier Lopez were arrested in 2007 and charged with murder in Torrez's death.

A jury deliberated for two days on the murder charges for Sam Lopez and found him guilty on March 3 based on circumstantial evidence.

Xavier Lopez's pre-trail hearing is scheduled for May 29.

During Sam Lopez's sentencing, he said he hoped his words brought some small amount of relief for the pain felt by her family.

Torrez's sister, Tina Mora, said that after 21 years of denial, she wanted to hear Sam Lopez admit the truth to God.

"Let God know how you realized she was still alive, then explain to him how you were able to stab her one last time," Mora said.

Sam Lopez said, what he did was a "horrible act" and that "everything they said was true. She was a wonderful person with a promising future and I took everything from here.

Outside of the court, Torrez's mother, Mary Bennett, said what she heard was what she always believed, that Sam Lopez was her daughter's killer.

"I think I'm still in shock hearing him speak," Bennett said. "But to me there was no remorse, those were just words he uttered that's all."

She attributed her faith and strength with getting her through two decades of uncertainty ... and now that uncertainty is finally over.

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