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Questions linger years after man’s murder

Remains of 32-year-old Los Angeles man found near Gorman almost three years after he disappeared

Posted: August 4, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

On Feb. 5, 2011, thousands across the country got together with friends to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday. Ricardo Lopez got together with friends too — and was never seen again.

The 32-year-old Los Angeles man, who went by the nickname “Shorty,” was heading out the door of his home on Berendo Avenue in the Athens area of the city and told his mother he was meeting friends. He got behind the wheel of his mother’s 2003 gold Ford Focus, and that was the last she saw him.

In early March this year, firefighters mopping up a brush fire near Gorman found the skeletal remains of a man who became known to Los Angeles County coroner’s investigators as John Doe 59.

It wasn’t until July 24 that investigators with the Coroner’s Department confirmed that John Doe 59 was Ricardo Lopez, murder victim. The whereabouts of the Ford Focus remains unknown.

Investigators were able to make the identification by matching DNA samples submitted by Lopez’s family, according to the man’s brother, Jesus Ruiz, who maintains a fundraising website in his honor.

“My brother went missing almost four year ago, on Super Bowl Sunday,” Ruiz says on the website. “So we’re asking for help to bury his remains that were found in March.”

“I just got contacted by Los Angeles (County) Sheriff’s Department on July 22 that they matched our DNA to his remains,” he says.

The focus now, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide Detective Karen Shonka, is on the friends Lopez met on that Super Bowl Sunday three and a half years ago.

Missing person

When Lopez failed to return to his home east of Hawthorne, his mother reported him and her car missing.

Lopez, who was unemployed, may have gone looking for rent money, according to a copy of the missing person report drawn up by the Sheriff’s Department and obtained by The Signal.

On paper Lopez is listed as a healthy young man with no broken bones. His mother described him to investigators as 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing 195 pounds with a bald head and a single tattoo on his left arm of a rosary held in praying hands.

She told investigators her son was wearing a white-and-pink striped shirt, blue jeans and a blue jacket.

Lopez was not a member of any gang, she told them.

From the doorstep of his family’s home to the Gorman hillside where his remains were found is at least 68 miles of clear, unobstructed road. Access to Interstate 110 then Interstate 5 is just three blocks from his home.

On March 14, a little more than three years after Lopez went missing, scores of Los Angeles County firefighters were dispatched to the Pine Fire near Gorman, where flames had consumed more than 100 acres.

By March 17, shortly after firefighters began mopping up from the blaze, sheriff’s deputies were notified of human remains found on a blackened hillside. Deputies contacted the Homicide Bureau.

Investigators, including Shonka, were soon at a remote area off Highway 138 near Gorman collecting bits of bone and other material in a bid to find out who the victim was and what killed him.

Homicide

All she and the investigators knew in March was that the victim was a male adult and that he may have been dead four years.

“There were some injuries to the skull and at least one that leads us to believe a firearm was involved,” she said. The death was determined to be a homicide.

Last Monday Shonka announced that her team had identified the murder victim whose skeletal remains were found near Gorman.

“We’re just going to have to get in contact with any friends he had,” she said.

jholt@signalscv.com
661-287-5527
On Twitter
@jamesarthurholt

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