Last July, Corey Lopez, age 23, was arrested for strangling girlfriend Richelle Best, ending the life of a much-loved woman who was just 21.
During the trial, Lopez's defense team insisted that the injuries that led to her death had been accidental. But these assertions didn't convince a jury, particularly given the flood of evidence against him -- including details about a previous strangulation attempt. Look below for the details, photos and more.
At around noon on July 24, 2012, according to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, Lopez phoned 911 to report that he'd awakened alongside Best to discover that she wasn't breathing -- and she was blue, cold and stiff. He added that he'd pushed her to the floor before heading to a neighbor's house to call for help.
Upon their arrival at Lopez's home, located at 1070 Teller Street in Lakewood, emergency responders confirmed that Best was dead.
Here are a few memories of Best shared on her Legacy.com page.
I love you, Shell. Hope you're looking down on me, my guardian angel. I miss your very much
I remember babysitting you and your brothers when u were about 6 or 7. We had a lot of fun and as we grew older, we became good friends. I just saw u a month before all this happened. We were getting ready to hang out. I still can't believe ur gone. U will always be in my heart. I love u, babygirl.
I miss you every day, Richelle, and my heart aches for you to be by my side again. You were the best partner in crime for the last 17 years. I miss you, sister, and I know you're looking down on us. I can't wait for the day we meet again. I love you always and forever, my sweet sister and friend.
For those who loved Richelle, the information that emerged from this month's trial targeting Lopez must have been agonizing.
On the evening of July 23, the DA's office notes, Richelle, a friend and family members got together at a Lakewood bar. There, Richelle told her mother that she needed some time away from Lopez, but she didn't get her wish. He subsequently turned up at the bar, uninvited, and drove Richelle and the friend to the latter's home.
Richelle's mom and brother were also in attendance -- and when she wanted to go to the home she shared with her parents, Lopez is said to have become furious, even punching out a car window in what was described by prosecutors as a fit of rage.
Other testimony suggested Lopez suffered from anger issues and apparently wasn't happy that Best wasn't ready to marry him even though they'd only been going out for four months.
Although Richelle made it safely home, she was seen leaving with Lopez at about 5 a.m. the following morning. Later, a neighbor saw Lopez "pulling, then dragging and carrying" Richelle down the stairs into his apartment at the 1070 Teller address.
It was the last time she was seen alive. Approximately forty injuries to her body were cataloged post-mortem, with most of the wounds being to her face and neck. Doctors testified that hemorrhages were noted to her larynx, vocal chords, esophagus and the tissue around her thyroid.
Jeffco DA's spokeswoman Pam Russell says Lopez's attorneys maintained that Best was hurt in a fall, and that while he'd had his arm around her neck, he hadn't made contact with it until her tumble, and then only unintentionally. But prosecutors argued that this explanation didn't correspond to the facts. Deputy District Attorney Lisa Scanga told the jury that although Best might have lost consciousness in as few as six-to-eight seconds, her death might have required as much as three-to-five minutes of consistent pressure.
And then there was the little matter of Lopez's history. The DA's office presented evidence that in 2008, Lopez had grabbed a previous girlfriend from behind, dragged her into a bedroom, locked the door and began punching and strangling her. Fortunately, a friend broke into the room and pulled Lopez off the woman, who survived the ordeal.
The trial lasted eight days, and at its conclusion, the jury found Lopez guilty of first-degree murder after deliberation, as well as two violent-crime counts. He's being held without bond and will next appear in court on July 16. He could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Here's a larger look at Lopez's mug shot.
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