Conn. man convicted of murder in 1988 teen slaying

AP News
Posted: Apr 26, 2011 2:31 PM
Conn. man convicted of murder in 1988 teen slaying

A Connecticut man was convicted of murder Tuesday in the 1988 killing of a pregnant teenager after another man served 20 years of a 60-year prison sentence before being cleared by DNA evidence .

Pedro Miranda of New Britain was found guilty of murder and kidnapping by a Hartford Superior Court jury. He was found not guilty of capital felony in connection with a sexual assault in the killing of 17-year-old Carmen Lopez of Hartford.

His lawyer, Vicki Hutchinson, said he will appeal after the sentence is imposed July 6. A murder conviction carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

"We're obviously disappointed in the results," Hutchinson said in a telephone interview.

State prosecutor David Zagaja did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Lopez's boyfriend, Miguel Roman, served 20 years in prison for the crime before being freed in 2008 based on new DNA evidence that led to the arrest of the 53-year-old Miranda.

Miranda also is awaiting trial on charges he killed two other Hartford teenagers in the 1980s. He denies the allegations.

Authorities say all three killings were sexually motivated.

Hutchinson, who told jurors in her opening argument April 12 that Roman was properly arrested and convicted, declined to say Tuesday if Miranda's conviction upholds the validity of DNA evidence. She said the jury would have to make that judgment. Miranda was arrested in 2008 in a police cold case investigation.

Zagaja told the jury in his opening statements that new technology determining DNA leaves no doubt that Miranda raped, beat and strangled the 17-year-old Lopez. Authorities say she was hanged from a couch, her hands and feet bound and her mouth stuffed with fabric, perhaps a sock.

Lopez disappeared after leaving a family party in January 1988. She told her cousin that she was going to meet Roman, an arrest warrant said. Her body was found a few days later in a Hartford apartment where she had been house-sitting, authorities said. She was six months pregnant.

The warrant said Miranda, who was dating Lopez's cousin, knew from other family members that Lopez would be alone in the apartment, but denied any involvement in her death.

Roman was convicted of Lopez's death, despite an FBI investigator testifying that tests eliminated him as a suspect. The jury convicted him based on circumstantial evidence and witness testimony, authorities said.

The new DNA testing 20 years later on evidence found in the apartment excluded Roman as a suspect and eventually linked Miranda to the crime, authorities said.

Roman's daughter, Vanessa, appeared at the trial and dismissed the argument by defense lawyers that her father had committed the crime. She was 10 when her father was sent to prison.