LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KTSM) – A former Doña Ana County Sheriff’s detective is accused of tampering with evidence from some of his own cases.
Jail records revealed Vincent Lopez was arrested Thursday. The 54-year-old is charged with nine counts of tampering with evidence, and nine counts of tampering with public records.
Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart held a news conference Friday morning to discuss the arrest.
According to a criminal complaint, investigators said they found 72 peices of evidence from nine different cases inside a home that had belonged to Lopez.
“This evidence to our knowledge never came to the sheriff’s department,” said Dona Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart.
The house was in foreclosure, according to the complaint, and the woman cleaning it out notified authorities on May 23 after she made the discovery.
Investigators said the evidence included case files, videos, and bloodied clothing, all tied to cases dating back to 2009.
According to the complaint, those cases involved alleged child molestation, rape, burglary and battery, among other crimes.
“Of course one of our concerns was the impact on any of the cases. We learned that there was a total of 9 cases that had a potential impact,” said Gerald Byers the Assistant Deputy District Attorney.
Byers said the nine cases are not eligible for prosecution for two reasons.
“Evidence issues that are totally unrelated to the evidence that was secreted by Mr. Lopez. Or a statute of limitations issues, such that the amount of time that has passed makes prosecution impossible because of that statute,” said Byers
Sheriff Stewart said it was a “failure of leadership”.
“Mr. Lopez resigned in lieu of an investigation in September of 2014. So I wasn’t here, the people who are in command now, we’re not in command then. So I can tell you that while we didn’t have direct control or authority over this we take responsibility for it,” said Sheriff Stewart.
Adding that those in charge at the time have since retired.
“I am very very sorry that’s the bottom line,” said Sheriff Stewart when asked what she would say for the victims families.
The document states Lopez told investigators he left the force in 2014 to care for his ailing parents.
The Sheriffs office adds that Lopez’s current residence but no more evidence was found.