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Man In Botched Murder-For-Hire At Large

It was a bizarre-but-bloody murder-for-hire episode gone awry, the Sheriff's Department announced Friday.

 

 

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In a bizarre-but-bloody murder-for-hire episode gone awry, the mastermind of a plot to kill an enemy wound up being the person attacked and left for dead, the Sheriff’s Department announced Friday.

Now, one of the five suspects in the case remains at large, they said. At least some of the violence seemed to be fueled by the use of methamphetamine, they added.

Deputies believe that the suspect, 28-year-old Victor Amezcua of Lompoc, helped turn the tables on the mastermind, 23-year-old Francisco Taran Lopez, who on Oct. 23 was discovered by hikers along the roadside on East Camino Cielo.

Lopez had been stabbed seven times, severely beaten, strangled and then tossed over the side where he was left for dead, authorities said. By the time the hikers found him, he had spent two days climbing back up the mountain to the roadside, they said.

Over the course of the three-week investigation, detectives said they learned that Lopez had enlisted a hit man to kill 22-year-old Victor Garcia, who Lopez believed was romantically interested in his girlfriend.

Authorities said the events unfolded in the following way: The alleged hit man, 28-year-old Jose Loza, solicited the aid of a 15-year-old. The two drove the streets of Lompoc searching for Garcia. When they eventually found Garcia, he was with his cousin, Amezcua. In an odd turn of events, the four of them — who reportedly had already known each other — hit it off. Then they decided to go after Lopez. In an effort to trick Lopez, Garcia agreed to be bound and blindfolded. The four found Lopez, and lured him to East Camino Cielo to witness what he thought would be Garcia’s murder. Instead, they attacked him, and left him for dead.

The next morning, on Oct. 24, on their way back to Lompoc, the alleged hit man and the 15-year-old, high on methamphetamine, became paranoid that Lopez’s girlfriend could become a witness to their crime, said Sgt. Erik Raney, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department.

In Lompoc, they found her and lured her into the car, with the intent of killing her, Sgt. Raney said. Forcing her to drive, they headed south, and stopped in the Carpinteria area, so she could use the restroom at Viola Fields.

In the parking lot, the 15-year-old became paranoid that he was the next intended victim, authorities said.

When the adults returned, he attacked them with a knife, “in a meth-induced paranoid rage,” Sgt. Raney said. Both escaped with knife wounds.

“The 15-year-old then fled the area, ran over the freeway and allegedly committed a residential burglary where he stole a set of car keys,” Sgt. Raney said in a statement. “He took the car and fled north on Highway 101.”

The California Highway Patrol witnessed the vehicle speeding and attempted to make a traffic stop. A high-speed chase ensued, and the teen wound up crashing at the Gaviota turn, where the vehicle burst into flames.

The crash occurred the morning after Lopez was discovered, and detectives made a connection, Sgt. Raney said.

The juvenile was turned over to the custody of Sheriff’s Investigators and interviewed regarding the East Camino Cielo stabbing. He was subsequently booked into Juvenile Hall on suspicion of attempted murder, criminal conspiracy, burglary and grand theft auto.

An investigation turned up the names of the others involved. Garcia was found in Downey, where he was arrested by local law enforcement on suspicion of attempted murder and criminal conspiracy.

Loza, the alleged hit man who rode with the teenager, was found in Lompoc and arrested on suspicion of the same offenses. Lopez, while a victim of attempted murder, was released from Cottage Hospital Oct. 30 and booked on suspicion of solicitation of murder, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy.

Authorities believe Amezcua is in possession of Lopez’s red 2000 Ford Mustang (4JPT690), which has been reported as stolen. His last known address is 312 E. Lemon Ave., Lompoc, where he lived in the garage.

He is 5-foot-8, with brown eyes and brown hair.

Any persons with information on Amezcua’s whereabouts are urged to contact Sheriff’s Detectives Chris Corbett or Freddy Padilla at the Carpinteria Station at (805) 568-3399.

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