Man accused of murdering trans woman avoids life in prison with plea deal
A man accused of murdering a transgender woman in Fresno, California, has avoided life in prison due to a plea deal.
Richard Lopez, 38, was accused of stabbing Kenton ‘KC’ Haggard, 66, in July 2015. He pleaded not guilty to first degree murder charges.
On Wednesday (13 March), Lopez made a deal with prosecutors at the Fresno County Superior Court. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, a lesser charge. Judge Michael Idiart said because of this deal, Lopez will have to serve 23 years in prison.
Under a first degree murder charge, Lopez would have had to serve at least 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole. Now, he may be eligible in 17 years.
What happened to Haggard?
On the night of 23 July 2015, Haggard was fatally stabbed in the neck. Someone pulled up beside her in a silver SUV and then stabbed her before driving away. Police later found her slumped against a pole.
The Sacramento Bee published surveillance video of the attack. Warning: It is extremely disturbing.
There were two other witnesses to the crime. One was in the SUV allegedly with Lopez, but Lopez’s lawyer, Greg Gross, said they became a witness for the prosecution.
The second witness later died in a motorcycle accident.
Gross confirmed why Lopez took the deal: ‘He wanted to protect himself from a life sentence.’
Reactions from LGBTI activists
Kat Fobear, a board member of Trans-E-Motion, a trans advocacy group in Fresno, told the Bee: ‘The thing is, far too often violence against trans people is dismissed or seen as a lesser crime.
‘It’s as if trans people are disposable.’
Trans people face disproportionately high rates of violence worldwide. From October 2017 to September 2018, at least 369 transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer people were killed.
Lopez will be sentenced on 19 June.
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Author: Anya Crittenton