Farmington man accused of killing cousin

Mitch Ricardo Lopez has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Benjamin Charley

Steve Garrison
Mitch Ricardo Lopez

FARMINGTON — A 21-year-old Farmington man was arraigned today on a murder charge in the slaying last year of his 28-year-old cousin.

Mitch Ricardo Lopez was charged Wednesday in Farmington Magistrate Court with second-degree murder, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $12,500 in fines.

Lopez was being held today at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center on a $100,000 bond, according to court records.

He has not retained legal representation, records state.

Lopez is accused of beating up Benjamin Charley on the night of April 18, 2015, while the men were intoxicated at Lopez's apartment at 2805 E. 22nd St. in Farmington, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Charley was transported by ambulance to the San Juan Regional Medical Center and treated for numerous wounds, including fractured bones in his face, and bruises to the head and body.

Charley's attacker kicked his head so hard that police found a shoe impression on Charley's forehead, according to an affidavit.

The impression was later matched to a pair of athletic shoes Lopez told police he was wearing the night of April 18, the affidavit states. Police also found a torn shirt at Lopez's residence with Charley's blood on it, according to the affidavit.

Lopez told police on April 23, 2015, that Charley ripped his shirt when Lopez was trying to help his cousin get up from the ground, the affidavit states. He further claimed his cousin was beaten by a unknown man outside his residence.

Police noted at the hospital that the knuckles on Lopez's right hand were swollen, according to the affidavit. Lopez later told police he hit his hand with a hammer at work.

Charley remained in critical condition at the hospital for two days before his death on April 21, 2015.

A medical investigator on June 9, 2015, ruled Charley's death a homicide, resulting from blunt head trauma. Acute alcohol intoxication was a contributing factor, according to the affidavit.

Charley's girlfriend, Angelisa Mud, told police during an interview on April 23, 2015, that she and Charley had been dating for nine years and had three children together.

She said Lopez sent her a text message at 5 p.m. April 18, 2015, saying he was going to pick up Charley from the couple's residence in Bloomfield, according to the affidavit. Mud said she left for work before Lopez arrived, but Charley texted her at 6:28 p.m. to tell her he was with Lopez, the affidavit states.

At 9:23 p.m., Mud said she left work and attempted to call Charley, but he did not answer his phone, the affidavit states.

She said she then received a call from Lopez, who said Charley got into a fight with "Rick" and needed to be picked up at the residence, according to the affidavit.

Mud told police Lopez called her three more times before she arrived at the residence on 22nd Street on Farmington, and each time provided a different name for the person who had beaten Charley.

When Mud arrived at the residence, Charley was unconscious on his back near the front door of Lopez's residence, the affidavit states.

Mud told police she wanted to call an ambulance for Charley, but Lopez urged her not to because he was on probation, according to the affidavit.

Instead, Mud and Lopez moved Charley, who was snoring, inside the residence. Mud and Lopez then went to a pancake restaurant, according to the affidavit.

Police obtained surveillance footage from the restaurant that showed Mud and Lopez entering the business holding hands, the affidavit states.

Mud told police she and Lopez had sex in February 2015 when she and Charley were fighting, according to the affidavit. She said they had been flirting through text messages the week before Charley's death, the affidavit states.

Mud said when she and Lopez returned to the apartment from the restaurant, Charley was no longer breathing, according to the affidavit.

She then called 911 while Lopez waited outside for an ambulance, the affidavit states.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said charges were not filed sooner in the murder because police were waiting on blood test results.

He said police have not determined a motive in the murder.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.