Police in Fresno, Calif., have arrested a suspect in the 2015 murder of a transgender woman.
Richard Joseph Lopez, 37, has been charged with the murder of K.C. Haggard, police told The Fresno Bee Monday. Lopez was arrested for the murder shortly after he was sentenced to three years in prison for an unrelated crime, stealing an elderly couple’s truck, the Bee reports.
Haggard, 66, was stabbed to death on a Fresno street in July 2015. A passenger in an SUV called Haggard, a pedestrian, over to the vehicle, spoke to her briefly, and reached out to stab her in the throat. The SUV then sped away. She walked a few steps and then collapsed, and was pronounced dead at a Fresno hospital shortly thereafter.
A nearby business recorded the crime on surveillance video, and police used that to trace the vehicle and connect it to the Haggard’s murder, the Bee reports. Police declined to identify the driver of the SUV, which was owned by Lopez, or say if the driver would face charges. At a Monday news conference, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said only that some people had cooperated in the investigation and would be put at risk if publicly identified, according to the Bee.
Police have not conclusively determined a motive for Haggard’s murder, Dyer said, although he added that he suspects she was killed because of her transgender identity. He and Fresno County Deputy District Attorney Robert Romanacce would not say if a hate-crime enhancement would be added to the murder charge, but Dyer said prosecutors would consult the FBI on the matter.
Police used Haggard’s birth name and male pronouns at the request of the victim’s family, but local activists said Haggard, who was in the process of transitioning, should be identified as female. Both the family and activists, however, expressed relief that an arrest had been made.
“Almost all transgender murders end up as cold cases,” Zoyer Zyndel, board chair for Trans-E-Motion, told the Bee. “This arrest can lead to real justice and is quite frankly a miracle in our community.”