A former girlfriend of murder defendant Corey Anthony Lopez, 23, told the jury about several incidents when he violently choked her, years before he allegedly strangled 21-year-old Richelle Ann Best to death.
The ex-girlfriend’s testimony came on June 19, the third day of testimony in the trial. The Lakewood man is charged with first-degree murder in the 2012 death of Best, as well as attempted murder of the ex-girlfriend, Samantha Eckendorf.
Prosecutors asked Eckendorf specifically about a 2008 incident when, she said, Lopez attacked her after the couple had an argument. Eckendorf said the attack began when Lopez surprised her by grabbing her and throwing her onto the couple’s bed.
“He just started wailing on me,” Eckendorf said, describing being punched on both sides of her jaw before Lopez began strangling her. She said the strangling went on long enough for her to lose consciousness.
According to testimony, a friend at the apartment heard the altercation and intervened.
When asked if she ever reported the strangulation to law enforcement, Eckendorf said she didn’t for fear of damaging her relationship with Lopez.
“As painful as it is to say after that, I still loved him and wasn’t going to leave him,” Eckendorf said.
According to Eckendorf, Lopez choked her on more than one occasion.
On cross-examination, Eckendorf was questioned closely about why, after saying she feared for her life with Lopez, she still carried on a friendly relationship after their breakup in December 2010. In particular, the defense attorney asked why she also had sexual contact with Lopez on one occasion after the breakup.
“I figured I was damaged goods and nobody was ever going to want me again,” Eckendorf answered.
The defense also questioned points of Eckendorf’s testimony on the stand that differed from what she told detectives last year.
In particular, on the stand Eckendorf said that she never actually saw Lopez being physically pulled off her by a friend during the 2008 incident.
Instead, she admitted to losing consciousness and waking up with the friend by her side.
Also during the June 19 court proceedings, the jury had a chance to hear Lopez say, in his own words, what happened in the early morning hours of June 24, 2012, leading up to the death of Best.
The prosecution showed the court the tape of an interview conducted by Lakewood Police Department detectives two days after Best’s death.
In the interview, Lopez eventually confesses that he believes he accidentally strangled Best while the two were in bed.
“I’ve been thinking about killing myself the last few days over that,” he told detectives.
In the video, Lopez repeatedly insists that he never choked Best in anger and that he had no indication anything was amiss until he woke up the next day to find her cold and not breathing.
The trial is scheduled to conclude this week.