The Journal Gazette
Saturday, September 19, 2020 1:00 am

60-year sentence ordered for Christmas Eve killings

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A man who killed two brothers on Christmas Eve – and who had been deported twice before that, a judge said – was ordered Friday to spend 60 years behind bars. 

Pedro Salas Lopez, 31, had been charged with two counts of murder in the stabbing deaths of Daniel Mendez-Lopez, 32, and Alfonso Mendez-Lopez, 26, but he pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement to two counts of voluntary manslaughter in August. Salas Lopez, also known as Pedro Sales-Lopez and Miguel Lopez, was sentenced to 30 years on each count in Allen Superior Court.

“I do believe you deserve the maximum sentence I can give you,” Judge David Zent told him.

The brothers were killed after a fight inside a room at the Coliseum Inn.

“These were his friends,” defense attorney Jeffrey Terrill said. “You mix some alcohol and drugs, all the way around – I think it's safe to say some things that weren't planned started to unfold.” 

Police arrested Salas Lopez the next day at The Rescue Mission, where he arrived with blood on his clothes. He told detectives that he traveled from Kentucky to Fort Wayne for a job and had been staying with the brothers at the motel.

Investigators said surveillance video from the motel shows Salas Lopez fighting with the brothers in the doorway of a room before they're killed. Salas Lopez told police he left the motel and returned to find them dead, something detectives argued was impossible.

Officers were called to the business around 7:15 p.m. Dec. 24 and found Daniel Mendez-Lopez dead inside the room. Alfonso Mendez-Lopez was found clinging to life on a second-floor balcony and later died at a hospital.

“(Salas Lopez) was a guest in this hotel room,” Tom Chaille, Allen County deputy prosecutor, said during a sentencing hearing. “He betrayed that trust and hospitality.”

Both men died from stab wounds to the chest. A motive for the killings was never made clear, but Salas Lopez told police he fought with the brothers after seeing Daniel Mendez-Lopez with a knife taken from a bag owned by Salas Lopez, according to court documents.

Friends and family of the brothers filled seats inside the courtroom and waited outside as Salas Lopez, who apologized, looked straight ahead and did not react when Zent handed down the sentence. 

Armando Mendez, a brother to the men killed, said children were left behind and lives were wrecked. 

“I don't even know where to start,” he said through an interpreter. “This man destroyed my entire family.” 

Knowing Salas Lopez will spend decades in prison brings some relief, Mendez said. 

“But the pain that he caused will stay with us forever,” he told the judge. 

Terrill said his client's life has been filled with struggle and little education. Salas Lopez came at age 12 with a relative to the U.S. and never spent more that “a few days” in school, his lawyer said. 

“Pedro's life has been different than a lot of ours,” said Terrill, noting that Salas Lopez accepted responsibility for the crimes and expressed remorse. “A 12-year-old should be in school, playing, and not have too many responsibilities. He grew up fast.” 

Sign up for our crime and courts newsletter

Sent daily when events warrant