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Poway Man Pleads Guilty to Helping Accused Killer

Jesse Juan Lopez will be sentenced to 16 months for his involvement with a shooting death in Escondido.

A Poway man pleaded guilty Thursday to an accessory charge for helping a fellow gangster accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend in Escondido last spring escape into Mexico.

Jesse Juan Lopez will be sentenced to 16 months in state prison at a hearing Oct. 16, Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe said.

Lopez, 22, was arrested April 24 in the deaths two weeks earlier of 18-year-old Viridiana Rodriguez and her 4-month-old male fetus, according to Escondido police Lt. Mike Loarie.

The victim’s boyfriend, 21-year-old construction worker Ruben Anthony Cepeda, is accused in the deaths. The unborn child was presumed to be his, authorities said.

Cepeda was on the lam for two months before being captured June 11 in Tijuana. He faces 150 years to life in prison if convicted of two counts of murder. His trial is pending.

Watanabe said Cepeda and Lopez were moving into an apartment in Escondido when the shooting occurred sometime after 7 p.m. April 7. Two of the victim’s sisters who were helping with the move were in the apartment on North Fig Street when the shooting happened.

Escondido police Detective John Myers testified at a preliminary hearing in June that one of the sisters, Yemely Rodriguez, told him that she was in a bedroom with sister Diana Rodriguez when she heard a noise in another bedroom and the victim crying out for help.

Yemely Rodriguez said she found her sister Viridiana on the floor with Cepeda kneeling next to her, Myers testified.

Cepeda said the shooting was an “accident” and that he was “sorry” and told Yemely Rodriguez to call 911, the detective testified.

Yemely Rodriguez said Cepeda told her he was going for help but disappeared, Myers testified.

In a second interview two weeks after the shooting, Yemely Rodriguez said she saw a gun in the bedroom and saw Lopez pick it up with a shirt, the detective testified.

Diana Rodriguez, Lopez’s girlfriend, said she saw Cepeda and the victim standing face-to-face, then saw Viridiana Rodriguez on the ground. Viridiana Rodriguez and her unborn child died about an hour later at a hospital.

The witness said she saw Cepeda holding his girlfriend and saw a black gun on the ground.

Diana Rodriguez testified that she tried to call and text both Cepeda and Lopez but got no response.

She said that both the victim and Cepeda were happy about having a baby boy.

Lopez was detained in his Toyota Tundra about an hour after the shooting at the Otay Mesa Border Crossing and a man—thought to be Cepeda—was seen running from Lopez’s car into Mexico, Watanabe said.

Border officials released Lopez, but he was charged two weeks later with being an accessory after the fact.

-City News Service

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