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Orem man charged with capital murder in torture death of girlfriend

An Orem man was charged Thursday with aggravated murder in the beating and torture death of his girlfriend and the mother of their two children.

An Orem man was charged Thursday with aggravated murder in the beating and torture death of his girlfriend and the mother of their two children. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

OREM — An Orem man was charged Thursday with capital murder and accused of killing his girlfriend.

In addition to aggravated murder, a capital offense, Luis Manuel Vargas Lopez, 27, is also charged in 4th District Court with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, and two counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child, a third-degree felony.

A person convicted of a capital offense is eligible to receive the death penalty in Utah. But Utah County Attorney David Leavitt announced in September that he will no longer seek the death penalty in any case his office prosecutes. A person convicted of aggravated murder can also be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, or a term of 25 years to life in prison.

Lopez is accused of killing his 27-year-old girlfriend, whom he lived with, and they had two children together. But the woman's name has not yet been released as officers are still trying to make notification to her next of kin who live out of the country.

On May 9, Lopez "tortured the victim, (and) caused serious physical abuse, both of which resulted in her death," according to charging documents.

The investigation began when emergency crews were called to 1079 N. 185 West in Orem, on a report of a woman who was unconscious and not breathing. Lopez claimed he and his girlfriend had gotten into an argument earlier in the day, that he left their residence and that when he came back, he found her slumped over in a chair, a police booking affidavit states. First responders reported immediately noticing "significant injuries to her face and a puncture wound above her left eyebrow; vomit was also found in her hair."

The puncture wound on her head "is believed to be part of a broken skull," the affidavit states.

But as detectives collected evidence and pressed Lopez on his story, they noted that "some of it did not make sense or line up with other evidence."

Police said investigators determined the woman had been dead for quite some time before 911 was called.

"When the investigator for the medical examiner arrived, he stated the body was in a state of full rigor mortis. This process takes around 12 hours to set in," according to the affidavit.

Charging documents allege that injuries to the woman's body were "caused by tools in the home." Lopez is also accused of trying to clean up blood from the home before police arrived. Wet clothes were found in the washing machine, along with pillowcases from their bedroom, police said.

Additional information about the case is expected to be released at a later time.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021 after many years of reporting for the Deseret News


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