St. George man tells police he stabbed friend to death after hearing spirits’ warning

Murder suspect Victor Manuel Hernandez is shown in this composite file image that includes a background photo of St. George Police at the crime scene near Dixie Downs Road, St. George, Utah, June 22, 2018 | Crime scene photo by Cody Blowers; booking photo of Hernandez courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, St. George New

ST. GEORGE  A judge last week ordered Victor Manuel Hernandez to stand trial for first-degree murder for allegedly choking and stabbing a man to death in June.

Hernandez, 21, of St George, is accused of killing 23-year-old Luwing Leonard Lopez during an argument that took place at Lopez’s apartment in the 200 block of South 100 West on June 21.

Judge Jeffery Wilcox in 5th District Court issued his ruling at a preliminary hearing where additional details of the killing and Hernandez’s arrest on June 22 were brought to light.

Read more: Suspect arrested in trailer park killing

St. George Police Lt. Rich Tripplett testified to statements made by the defendant during three interviews with police June 22. He said Hernandez was read his Miranda rights during the first interview at 12:45 p.m., but not during the two subsequent interviews that took place hours later on the same day.

Hernandez denied killing Lopez in the first interview, which was held at the police station and conducted by Tripplett and St. George Police officer Nick Garcia, who were both fluent in Spanish and able to communicate with the defendant.

At 7:45 p.m. detectives conducted the second interview in which Hernandez allegedly confessed to killing Lopez, but said he had an accomplice named “Geremo.”

The third interview was conducted at 8:45 p.m. when detectives showed Hernandez photos of the knife, clothing, a pair of shoes and other evidence, at which point Hernandez confessed to killing Lopez, Tripplett testified.

It was during that interview that Hernandez told police he and Lopez had been friends for several months, and went to the apartment on on South 100 West after Lopez invited him over to “do drugs.”

They both smoked marijuana, but then Lopez began smoking methamphetamine. He offered the pipe to Hernandez, who told him that the “pipe was cursed, and that he didn’t smoke out of a pipe.”

Hernandez also told detectives that he and his family members have a “sixth sense” and have the ability to hear spirits.

Those spirits purportedly told Hernandez that “Lopez intended to sacrifice Hernandez’s newborn son to the devil and to his angels,” Tripplett testified, adding that the child lives with its mother in Mesquite, Nevada, and was not present in the apartment at the time.

A confrontation ensued, during which Hernandez pulled a knife from his waistband and stabbed Lopez twice. He dropped the knife and Lopez ran toward the front door yelling for help, but Hernandez caught him and placed him in a chokehold until “he stopped breathing.” He then stabbed him multiple times.

Hernandez left the residence and called his sister from a friend’s house. She picked him up and took him to a family member’s house.

Later that night, an individual called 911 to report that one of their family members may have murdered someone, but officers saw nothing suspicious on the outside of the residence and cleared the scene.

The following day, June 22, a second 911 call was made by a relative of Hernandez. Officers responded to an apartment complex in the 200 block of South 100 West where they found evidence of an altercation. Inside a dumpster they located a black backpack wrapped in a white trash bag.

Inside the backpack detectives found a white baseball hat, a black t-shirt and a pair of jeans with blood stains, along with a hunting-style knife and sheath covered in blood. They also found a prescription bottle with the victim’s name on it, as well as other items of evidence.

Tripplett testified that Hernandez admitted to officers that the items found in the backpack were his.

At the preliminary hearing, defense attorney Kenneth Combs asked Tripplett if Hernandez was being detained at the police station during police interviews. The officer confirmed he was being detained and was not free to leave.

Tripplett also testified that Hernandez was not under arrest from the time he was placed in the interview room shortly after 12:30 p.m. to when the third interview was conducted at 8:45 p.m.

Asked if officers viewed Hernandez’s statement about the spirits and the killing of his son as a genuine fear, or if it was a statement made to minimize his responsibility in the crime, Tripplett replied: “I believe he felt that way.”

Hernandez is scheduled to be back in court Nov. 13 for oral arguments on a motion to suppress at 4 p.m. He remains in jail on $250,000 cash-only bail.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • Kilroywashere September 26, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Sixth sense, family hears spirits too. Hmmmm. Initially lied twice, then came up with new alternative story about spirit voices and turning down a hit of meth. My guess after he was cornered the third time he came up with the insanity defense and played the demon possessed card for the officer present knowing he was nailed. The TELL is the story of the cursed meth pipe that he refused. Wonder what the drug tests showed. If he was positive for meth then Ocams razor points to a meth fueled psychosis and another lie. Encyclopedia Brown. Whatever the case, he gave himself a chance to plead insanity. The drug test is the smoking gun.

    • Carpe Diem September 26, 2018 at 9:49 pm

      Not crazy, just a lying dirtbag.

  • Carpe Diem September 26, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    The insanity defense wont work because he lied. Part of that defense is that you dont know right from wrong. He tried to lie out of it.

  • Striker4 September 27, 2018 at 12:23 am

    Wow he sounds like a lawyer

  • Mike P September 27, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Oh for Christs sake, this is ridiculous.

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