LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – A one-time sheriff’s deputy has been arrested, accusing of taking home evidence while he was on the job. That evidence related to cases dating back to ten years ago.
From rape to burglary cases, some of the evidence found at the former Dona Ana County detective’s home dates back to 2009. Because of the statute of limitations on all the cases found at his house, prosecutors can’t go forward with their investigations.
“Former Detective Lopez would go to the crime scene. He would collect evidence. It would never make it to the sheriff’s department. It would never make it to be able to be processed,” says Chief Deputy District Attorney Gerald Byers.
The sheriff’s office says it started when Las Cruces Police were called to Vincent Lopez’s old house when a cleaning crew found weapons and police paperwork in the home. According to a criminal complaint, bloody clothing, DNA swabs, and knives were some of the old evidence found in Lopez’s home.
Sheriff Kim Stewart says they found 72-pieces of evidence linked to nine cases ranging from rape of a minor to battery. Cases found at Lopez’s house spanned from 2009 through 2013.
Lopez resigned from the sheriff’s office in 2014 while under investigation for failing to complete his work on time. Sheriff Stewart says in all her years in law enforcement, she has never seen a case like this. “I want to make it clear, this evidence, to our knowledge, never came to the sheriff’s department,” she says.
In a burglary case back in June 2013, Lopez listed all the evidence he collected, including an envelope with $107 inside. However, the criminal complaint says there was no record the money envelope was ever turned into the Dona Ana County Evidence Room.
The District Attorney’s Office later dismissed that case because of a lack of evidence. All of that evidence, with the exception of the cash, was recently found at Lopez’s house.
Lopez has been charged with 18-counts of tampering with evidence and public records. As for a motive, Sheriff Stewart says her department can’t figure out why Lopez did this.