Orem man charged with girlfriend’s brutal murder

File photo: Gephardt Daily/Monico Garza/SLCScanne

OREM, Utah, May 10, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — An Orem woman is dead and her boyfriend has been arrested for murder after emergency responders were called to a residence Monday night.

Officers responded at 8:29 p.m. Monday to the residence, in the area of 1000 North and 185 West, and found the female victim unconscious and not breathing. Two men, 27-year-old Luis Manuel Vargas Lopez, and his friend, Juan, were at the scene.

“Officers arrived on-scene and began life-saving measures on the victim; officers immediately noticed significant injuries to her face and a puncture wound above her left eyebrow; vomit was also found in her hair,” says a probable cause statement filed to support the arrest of Vargas, the woman’s boyfriend. “EMS personnel arrived and pronounce the female dead.”

Suspect’s statement to officials

Vargas told first responders that he and his girlfriend had argued earlier in the day, and he said he left the residence for several hours to separate himself from her. The suspect said he returned to the residence about an hour before the 911 call was made at 8 p.m. by his friend Juan.

According to the charging document, Vargas said that when he returned from his walk, he found the woman slumped over in a chair next to a bottle of floor cleaner and she was unresponsive.

Vargas told police that he put the woman in the shower, hoping to restore her to consciousness, but when that didn’t work, he said, he started CPR.

He said that is when he called his friend, Juan, for help.

However, according to the charging document, a neighbor’s doorbell cam video contradicted the stated timeline, showing Vargas left the residence at 2:30 p.m. and returned just 12 minutes later and had not left the residence after that.

Friend’s account

The suspect’s friend, Juan, told police that he first talked to Vargas Lopez at about 11 a.m. Monday, to offer to hire him for a job, which he said Vargas accepted. Juan said he called again at 2 p.m. to ask why Vargas had not shown up at the job site.

Juan told officers Vargas called him at about 8:22 p.m. Monday to ask for help. Juan arrived about six minutes later, the statement says.

“He found Luis performing CPR on the victim and Luis asked to switch out because he was getting tired. The friend told investigators that he recognized that she had been dead for some time and he refused to assist,” the probable cause statement says. The statement says that, instead of assisting the suspect, Juan took the two children out of the house and called emergency dispatch.

The statement goes on to say that, after being Mirandized, Vargas told officers that he had learned a month earlier that his girlfriend had cheated on him sometime during 2021.

The suspect told police that he and the woman had breakfast with their children, and then he went for a walk to “get some space and clear his mind,” and he said he returned hours later to the residence, where he found his girlfriend unresponsive in a chair

The suspect said he called Juan, who came over and put the children in his vehicle, “then called 911 since Luis had not,” the document states.

Conflicting facts

When investigators told Vargas that parts of his story did not make sense or align with evidence, he changed his story, saying he had not gone on a walk, but had driven to the gas station, and the victim had never regained consciousness after he returned.

The charging document further states that, “When asked about the bruising on Luis’ hands, which looked consistent with someone who had just punched someone or something, Luis said he bumped the hand on the bathroom counter while moving the victim.”

Luis also admitted that he had punched the victim on previous occasions, according to the Orem Police document.

Vargas told officers he and the victim had argued earlier about infidelity, and he said the woman’s swollen, bruised eyes were caused by her punching herself in the face, the document says.

An investigator from the Medical Examiner’s Office arrived at about 4 a.m. Tuesday and detected the body was in a state of full rigor mortis, which takes about 12 hours after death to set in, the statement says. That put the time of death at 4 p.m. Monday or earlier, the police statement says.

The statement also said the puncture beneath the victim’s eyebrow appeared to be at the site of a probable skull fracture.

Charges

Vargas has been booked on initial charges of:

  • Murder, a first-degree felony
  • Obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony
  • Domestic violence in the presence of a child, a third-degree felony

Vargas is being held at the Utah County jail without bail.

Victims of domestic violence are encouraged to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. Counselors are available at all times, and languages spoken include English and Spanish.

Closer to home is the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, which can be reached at 800-897-LINK (5465).

Utah County Jail. Photo: Google Streets

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