Life in prison for man convicted of beating, dismembering, burning victim

Daniel Lopez, 32, burned dismembered body of Jose Luis Menchaca, police say

By Paul Venema - Reporter, Van Darden - Managing Editor

SAN ANTONIO - The man convicted of beating another man to death then burning his body in a backyard barbecue grill has been sentenced to life in prison.

Daniel Lopez, 32, was convicted in June in the September 2014 murder of Jose Luis Menchaca.

As prosecutors asked District Judge Ron Rangel to sentence Lopez to life in prison Friday, they claimed that he was a man with “a bad side and a side that’s even worse.”

Prosecutors said Menchaca, 35, was beaten to death with baseball bats and suffocated before Lopez and two co-defendants dismembered his body and burned his limbs on a backyard barbecue grill.

“They beat him mercilessly because Daniel Lopez wanted to hear him scream,” prosecutor Matthew Ludowig told Judge Rangel. “It was personal.”

The attack followed a drug deal that didn't go as planned, according to prosecutors.

A witness said Lopez also killed his ex-girlfriend in 2014 and later burned some of her body parts on a barbecue grill.

“Parts being put into the barbecue pit and then closed. You see smoke and stuff coming out of the barbecue pit,” Vanessa Gonzales told the court Thursday.

Heightened security

Security in the courtroom was extremely tight for the two-day sentencing hearing, with a dozen deputies and SWAT team officers positioned throughout the courtroom — an unusual sight a the Cadena-Reeves Justice Center.

Lopez has a history, both in and out of jail, as being extremely dangerous, according to his attorney J. Charles Bunk.

“He’s made threats in the past, and perhaps there is some concerns that he might try something today,” Bunk said Wednesday. “I think he really has an ‘I’ve got nothing to lose’ attitude.”

Flanked by two heavily armed deputies, Lopez showed no emotion when Judge Rangel delivered his sentence.

“Having been found guilty by a jury of your peers, I sentence you to life in prison,” Rangel said.

There are two co-defendants in this case. Lopez’s girlfriend Candice Dominguez is in jail awaiting sentencing as part of a plea deal and Gabriel Moreno is in jail waiting to be tried.

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