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Killer gets 15 years
Jan 28, 2005 12:00 am
A 2004 Memorial Day weekend "melee" which resulted in the death of a Leeville Pike man has netted his killer a 15-year prison sentence.
Luiz Lopez Avendeno, 25, who was originally charged with criminal homicide, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and three counts of aggravated assault, according to court documents.
Avendeno was charged with the stabbing death of Natalio Berrera, 28, outside his Leeville Pike Apartment.
At the time of the slaying, Lebanon Police Commander Terry Bowman described it as a "melee" in which two groups wielding knives and machetes squared off after an argument over a job.
Had the case gone to trial prosecutors would have likely found themselves relying heavily on the testimony of a 12-year-old girl who according to court documents witnessed the killing.
Court records show Lopez was sentenced to six years for the voluntary manslaughter count and three years for each of the three counts of aggravated assaults. Documents show Criminal Court Judge J.O. Bond ordered the sentences served consecutively.
Attempts to contact Assistant District Attorney David Durham about the case Wednesday were unsuccessful.
The slaying focused police scrutiny on the South Maple Street area, which had already seen an increase in minor violence in the weeks before Berrera's death.
Officers beefed up patrols in the neighborhood, made numerous arrests for violations such as loitering and minor drug possession and even had codes officials demolish some structures in the area in the weeks after the killing.
The case was also one of several investigated over the past year by Lebanon police in what authorities term "high-crime areas" where officials publicly complained about a lack of witness cooperation.
At the time of Avendeno's arrest, Bowman indicated investigators gleaned little useful information from those on hand when the victim was killed.
"Their attitude was that they are from Mexico and this is the way they handle these things," Bowman said. "They said they handle things like this themselves."
In addition to less than cooperative witnesses, authorities also encountered identification problems while investigating the slaying.
In his initial court appearance, officials revealed the suspect gave several different names to authorities before his true identity was discovered.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.