LANCASTER – A Lancaster man was convicted Thursday of killing a man who was riding his all-terrain vehicle in the desert more than two years ago.
The jury deliberated for about four hours before finding Arturo Lopez guilty of second-degree murder for the Feb. 23, 2014, shooting death of Stephen Finson, 47, of Lancaster, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Lopez, 40, was also convicted of one count each of conspiracy to commit a crime and offering false evidence, along with three counts of possession of a firearm by a felon.
On Feb. 23, 2014, Finson went for a desert ride on his all-terrain vehicle but did not return home. After a desperate all-night search by his family members, Finson’s body was located the next morning near 135th Street East and Avenue H.
The Navy veteran was still wearing his helmet, and his Honda ATC 250R was upright some 40 to 50 feet north of the dry wash, sheriff’s officials said.
An autopsy revealed that Finson died from a gunshot to the head that went through the back of his helmet and exited through his open face mask, homicide detectives said.
More than a month after Finson’s death, and two weeks after a $10,000 reward was offered to help solve the crime, authorities were tipped off to ex-convict Arturo Lopez. He was arrested by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on April 30, 2014.
At a preliminary court hearing in May of 2014, Gerardo Amaya testified that he was riding in a vehicle with Lopez on Feb. 23, 2014, when Lopez stopped the car and said he wanted to “test fire a new pistol.” Lopez then got out of the car and fired his weapon twice towards the desert, Amaya testified.
At the preliminary court hearing, Lopez’s ex-girlfriend testified that Lopez told her he thought he shot and killed someone, and then asked her to hide him from law enforcement.
Sentencing for Lopez is scheduled for July 14 in Department A16 at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Antelope Valley Branch. Lopez faces a maximum possible sentence of 45 years to life in state prison.
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