29-year-old strangled, dismembered victim before cooking body parts on backyard grill
The convicted killer and another woman, Candie Dominguez, 38, are accused of persuading the victim to come to their home in order to kill him
When the jury convicted a suspect of killing a man in San Antonio, Texas, chaos broke out in the courtroom.
The man in question, Daniel Moreno Lopez, reportedly beat a man to death with baseball bats before dismembering him and grilling the amputated parts in a barbecue.
According to San Antonio Express-News, Lopez was convicted of the murder of 35-year-old Jose Luis Menchaca on Tuesday after a grilling three-hour jury session.
Menchaca's killing was allegedly in retaliation for a botched drug deal when the victim reportedly stabbed Lopez in the back just days before the incident.
But as soon as the verdict was read in the courtroom, Lopez turned aggressive and got out of control, to the extent that Bexar County sheriff's deputies had to force him from the session.
It took as many as 10 sheriff's deputies to hold Lopez as the verdict was being read just to make sure he would not harm anyone present in the courtroom.
According to Express-News, it took a minimum of eight officers to push the guilty out of the room and throw him into a holding room for inmates. Lopez's mother, his girlfriend, and his aunt, all left the courtroom crying as soon as he was forced out.
In the hallway outside the court, press photos show her being physically restrained, desperate and despondent, crying uncontrollably as her son is sentenced.
While two unidentified people consoled her, she even collapsed onto the floor, screaming "No!" and immediately ran down the stairs.
A presentencing investigation hearing would precede Lopez's final sentencing, which is scheduled for July 25. According to prosecutors, Lopez and Gabriel Moreno beat Menchaca with baseball bats at a San Antonio residence.
Menchaca was lured into the home allegedly by Candie Dominguez and another woman. Both Dominguez and Moreno are awaiting trial for the said crimes.
Menchaca reportedly pleaded for his assailants to stop and begged for his life, according to the testimony of a witness named Dennis Austin.
“I am your God now!,” Lopez allegedly responded, the San Antonio Express-News reported. “You better start praying.”
When Menchaca went on to plead for his life, Lopez reportedly responded: “No, you’re gonna die.”
“I saw blood on the walls, on the couch, on the floor, the victim bound at his hands and feet, and his mouth taped up,” Austin said, as reported by MySA.Com. "He (Menchaca) was bleeding from his cheeks, there was blood everywhere on him. It was like a horror movie.”
During Lopez's cousin's murder trial which took place in March, Austin claimed that he had seen Menchaca's torso in a blue plastic tub while his head was wrapped in a plastic bag.
“We saw the torso, head still attached, but detached, like a bobblehead,” he said, according to Fox News. “I will never forget that smell. It smelled worse than a decayed animal.”
Authorities found a part of his body in a plastic bin at the home while his amputated arms and legs were discovered on top of a backyard grill, after the slaying.
Having said that, J Charles Bunk, the attorney representing Lopez, told the jury in closing arguments that prosecutors still hadn't proven that his client had claimed the life of Menchaca.
He said that accomplices in the murder were granted deals in return for their testimony in court.
"They want you to assume it had to be this guy," Bunk said, pointing to his client.
According to the lawyer, it was Dominguez who killed Menchaca, and not Lopez. "Why don’t they tell you they know Candie Dominguez did it," Bunk said, challenging the credibility of the state’s witnesses. "This is a whole pile of Get Out of Jail Free — they give one to him and her and him and her, it goes on and on and on."
According to Bunk, a witness falsely testified that she saw Lopez “tending to the barbecue pit where the remains were found. She saw what she thought was a knee.”
“A kneecap, bones and some fingers were found in the barbecue pit,” says Bunk. “The stories are so different. They’re lost in their cloud of dust," he said. “There is no evidence to convict him of this murder."
On the other hand, Josh Somers, the prosecutor, urged the jury to use 'reason and common sense', saying Lopez had the all the reason and motivation to kill Menchaca.
"Look at the facts and use your reason and common sense and everyday logic," Somers told the jury.
"Daniel Lopez is the only person that knew Jose Luis Menchaca and had a motive and reason to murder him."
“The scene appeared to be kind of cleaned up,” said Angela Salvatierra, a crime scene investigator with SAPD. "There was some cleaning type smells to the room as well. In the back bathroom portion of the back area there was a tote with portions of a human body in it."