Investigation Discovery’s ‘Murder in the Heartland’ chronicles the mysterious murder of Irene Trujillo in its episode titled ‘Love on the Rocks.’ When the beloved daughter was found buried, mutilated, and burnt in her own quarry, suspicions arose, and her husband and her business partner were seen as the primary suspects. However, an employee at the quarry, Lionel Lopez, was caught trying to rob her house. He was eventually indicted for her murder. But was he the mastermind behind the entire operation, or were there others involved? We delved deep to find out.
Who Is Lionel Lopez?
Lionel Lopez was an employee at Montrose Stone, the quarry owned by Irene Trujillo and her husband Rick and his childhood friend, Robert Martinez. Lionel was supposedly the last person to have seen Irene Trujillo alive before she disappeared in April 2003. According to statements issued by the police, she was last seen on April 9, 2003, when Lionel had dropped her home from a therapy session. The statements also mentioned that Lopez had taken Trujillo to a Montrose Wal-Mart store. While in the store, Irene had reportedly informed one of her friends that she was purchasing ammunition for Lopez, to whom she owed money.
Several days before the Wal-Mart sighting, Lopez had rented a rifle for an apparent hunting trip, which never happened. The rifle was returned after Trujillo’s disappearance. It was also said that Trujillo and Lopez had had an argument before she went missing. In June 2003, Trujillo’s body was discovered in the same Quarry she owned with her husband and his childhood friend. She was shot, and her body was mutilated and burnt before being buried in the quarry. While police were looking for suspects, Lopez was arrested and convicted of burglarizing Irene’s home, several weeks after she disappeared.
Where Is Lionel Lopez Now?
While being detained in the Montrose County Jail for the burglary charges, Lionel Lopez was indicted on one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in 2006. A bail of $500,000 was placed on his head. The indictment allowed the proceedings to move forward. Several witnesses informed the jurors that Lopez had admitted killing to Trujillo. One of the witnesses even claimed that Lopez had taken Irene east of Montrose before shooting her.
In March 2009, Lionel Lopez pleaded guilty to charges that were different from those he was indicted on. He pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the first-degree murder of Irene Trujillo. With the introduction of the plea, Lopez was sentenced almost immediately to 10 years in prison. However, Lopez’s plea left the case open-ended, yet again.
Irene’s estranged husband, Rick Trujillo, commented that Lopez’s sentencing was a good source of closure for him and his daughters. “He (Lopez) pleaded to accessory to murder. It’s a good thing. It’s good for the family. We’ll just see how it comes out here, soon,” Rick said. There have been no official statements from authorities on Lopez’s release from the prison.
Irene Trujillo’s Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?