5 chilling details about Cathy Torrez's murder

Cathy Torrez
Dateline: Secrets Uncovered chronicles the 1994 stabbing death of Cathy Torrez (Image via IMDb, @tharmonson/Twitter)

Cathy Torrez was found stabbed multiple times in the trunk of her car just days after she was first reported missing in February 1994. Sources stated that the 20-year-old was attending California State Fullerton University while working two jobs at the time, one of them being at the local drug store, Sav-On.

On the day she disappeared, she reportedly intended to meet her on-and-off boyfriend Sam Lopez after her shift at the drug store. Although the boyfriend was a prime suspect in the case, due to a lack of solid physical evidence, the case went cold until 2007, when DNA found on the victim connected Sam's cousin Xavier Lopez to the murder.

Trigger Warning: This article contains descriptions of a violent crime, which may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

youtube-cover

The narrative unraveled slowly, and it was eventually revealed that Lopez attacked Torrez during an argument and stabbed her 74 times. He then disposed of the body with his cousin's help. Both were arrested and charged in connection with the murder case.

Cathy Torrez's murder case was explored at length in Dateline: Secrets Uncovered's latest episode, titled The Promise, which aired on January 3.


Cathy Torrez's stabbing: Five quick facts to know about the decades-old case of the CSFU student

1) Cathy went missing months after reconnecting with Sam Lopez in 1993

20-year-old Cathy Torrez went missing on February 12, 1994 (Image via NBC Dateline)
20-year-old Cathy Torrez went missing on February 12, 1994 (Image via NBC Dateline)

Cathy Torrez and Sam Lopez used to be high school sweethearts. They reconnected in September 1993 at Cathy's sister Tina's wedding to Sam's older brother, Armando Lopez.

The two would often frequently hang out at Cathy's workplace, Sav-On, along with Sam's cousin Xavier Lopez. Months into their on-and-off relationship, the 20-year-old went missing.


2) Torrez's car and body was found within days after her disappearance

Cathy, who went missing on February 12, 1994, was found dead a few days later, on February 19, inside the trunk of her abandoned car, a red 1990 Toyota Corolla, which was spotted in a hospital parking lot by a patrolling officer.

According to reports, the front seat and bumper of the car were soaked in blood, and her body was discovered in the trunk with at least 74 stab wounds. An autopsy later revealed that she was stabbed in the face, head, and torso, with fatal slashes on her wrists and neck. Authorities believed Cathy was still alive when she was put in the trunk, based on the visible handprint discovered within.


3) Sam Lopez and his cousin Xavier were connected to Cathy's murder case years later

43-year-old Sam Lopez during his sentence hearing in May 2015 (Image via MediaNews Group/Getty Images)
43-year-old Sam Lopez during his sentence hearing in May 2015 (Image via MediaNews Group/Getty Images)

When the forensics team examined Cathy Torrez's car after making the horrific discovery, they detected fingerprints that did not belong to the victim and showed no matches at the time. In 1997, authorities were eventually able to charge Sam's cousin, Xavier Lopez, with murder. The charges were nonetheless dismissed due to a lack of physical evidence connecting him to the murder.

Detectives re-examined Cathy's case a few years later and in 2007, utilizing modern DNA testing, established that Xavier Lopez's DNA was found on the victim's clothes. Sam and his cousin Xavier were both arrested and charged with murder, with the former being tried first.


4) Sam allegedly attacked Cathy using a knife during a heated argument

Cathy was stabbed at least 74 times (Image via NBC Dateline)
Cathy was stabbed at least 74 times (Image via NBC Dateline)

Sam Lopez and his cousin Xavier allegedly met Cathy Torrez in the parking lot of a Baskin Robbins on February 12, 1994. Cathy, before leaving work, even informed all her co-workers that she was going to meet Sam after her shift. The trio then drove to a different location from there.

Sam and Cathy got into a fight at one point, during which the former attacked the 20-year-old and repeatedly stabbed her in the head, face, and chest. He then put her in the car trunk with his cousin's assistance while she was still alive and sliced her neck and wrists.


5) Three individuals were charged in the Cathy Torrez murder case

Cathy's ex-boyfriend Sam Lopez was found guilty in her murder case more than two decades later (Image via MediaNews Group/Getty Images)
Cathy's ex-boyfriend Sam Lopez was found guilty in her murder case more than two decades later (Image via MediaNews Group/Getty Images)

Sam Lopez received a 26-year prison term for the murder of Cathy Torrez in 1994, after being found guilty of one felony count of murder with the use of a deadly weapon as a sentencing enhancement. Prior to receiving his sentence in May 2015, he admitted to murdering her and apologized to the Torrez family.

Xavier Lopez, on the other hand, received a four-year and eight-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Armando Lopez also admitted to helping his brother and cousin commit the crime. He pleaded guilty to dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and was sentenced to a year on probation.

Quick Links

Edited by Upasya Bhowal