FRESNO, Calif. - Two and a half years after the murder of a transgender woman, a suspect is now behind bars. 38-year-old Richard Lopez is accused of stabbing 66-year-old Kenton "KC" Haggard in July of 2015.
Moments after a judge sentenced Lopez to a three-year prison sentence for elder abuse, Police let him know he would be facing a murder charge next. The brother of KC Haggard says justice has been a long time coming.
Hundreds of cars pass by it every day. The wreath may be withering away but the memory of KC Haggard is still very much alive.
"It's been wrenching for my family and this has been a long time coming," said Gerald Haggard.
Haggard says the arrest of Richard Lopez is the beginning of closure for his family. Security cameras of the tattoo shop on Cornell and Blackstone tell the story. Just before 2:30 AM on July 23, 2015, Haggard -- known to many as a transgender woman, is seen walking to an SUV, wearing a dress and a wig.
"And I already knew it. Whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen to this person. There's no doubt in my mind," said Augustin Rubio who owns Most Wanted Tattoo.
Police say Lopez sat in the passenger seat and suddenly stabbed Haggard in the neck before the car pulled away. Haggard tried to wave down help but bled to death on the sidewalk. Five days later, police found the SUV. Detectives discovered that the owner of the Silver Saturn lived in Oregon and sold the car to Lopez.
Police identified 45-year-old Refugio Cedillo as an accessory to the crime. They say he was responsible for cleaning the vehicle after the murder. Last December, Cedillo died riding his motorcyle in a crash at the intersection of Willow and Tulare. Chief Dyer says the FBI helped investigate what police believe to be a hate crime.
"We strongly suspect that Kenton Haggard was murdered due to his or her sexual orientation of being transgender," said Dyer.
"She'd made a Facebook page with her name. She had hopes and dreams for a future of being her real, authentic self and that was violently stolen," said Karen Adell Scott, Director of TransCare.
The transgender community relieved that Haggard's accused killer is off the streets. Councilman Clint Olivier also thankful for Fresno PD's persistence.
"But I'm also very sad that we did suffer this loss here in our community," said Olivier.
Gerald Haggard says whether you can call his brother KC or Kenton, he was truly a person.
"We'll make the best of it. We'll carry on as he would want us to do," said Haggard.
Chief Dyer says Lopez would not give police a statement regarding the murder charge without an attorney present. So the motive of the killing is still unclear at this time.