Arrest in a 2015 high profile Fresno homicide case

38-year-old Richard Lopez of Fresno (Courtesy: Fresno Police)

FRESNO, Calif. (FOX26) --The brutal stabbing death of a transgender woman in Fresno created headlines here and across the country back in 2015. Thirty months later Fresno Police believe they've finally solved the homicide case.

38-year-old Richard Lopez of Fresno never saw it coming. Tuesday morning in Fresno County court he was sentenced to three years in prison on an elder abuse case.

Minutes after his sentencing Fresno detectives told him he now faces a murder charge in the death of Kenton Haggard.

On July 23, 2015, a brutal murder was caught on surveillance video. Transgender Kenton Haggard wearing a white dress was walking up and down Blackstone Avenue just after two in the morning.

Two men in a silver SUV stopped to talk. As Haggard leaned forward the person in the passenger seat stabbed Haggard. Haggard stumbled down the street, collapsed and died.

Two and a half years later Fresno Police believe Richard Lopez is the killer. After being sentenced in court on an elder abuse case he was whisked to Fresno Police headquarters.

Police chief Jerry Dyer: "I think today he believed he was being sentenced for the elder abuse crime and was facing three years in prison. He had no idea he was also gonna be charged with the crime of murder."

This homicide case had lots of twists and turns. The FBI was called in because the case was possibly a hate crime. "We strongly suspect that Kenton Haggard was murdered due to his or her sexual orientation of being transgender."

The silver SUV was spotted in a different part of town hours after the murder. It was then located five days later in northeast Fresno.

Detectives say the evidence in the SUV beefed up its case. It pointed them to two men, Lopez and Refugio Cedillo.

Cedillo was never charged because he was killed in a motorcycle crash at Tulare and Willow last December.

Chief Dyer says detectives interviewed more than 30 people. Their investigation took them as far as Oregon.

38-year-old Richard Lopez has a long rap sheet. He's been convicted of auto theft, assault with a deadly weapon and drug possession.

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