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Man who killed his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend sentenced to life in prison

Marcelino Santiago Lopez went to South St. Paul with the intention to fight the man, but ended up using his shotgun to kill him and injure a 16-year-old boy.
Marcelino Santiago Lopez

A 20-year-old Inver Grove Heights man has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a 20-year-old man who was involved with his ex-girlfriend. 

A Dakota County judge this week found Marcelino Santiago Lopez guilty of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Brandon Jose Nieves of South St. Paul on April 2, 2020, a news release says

The judge also found him guilty of attempted second-degree murder in the shooting that also injured a 16-year-old boy.

According to the criminal charges, Lopez, who was then 19, had admitted to investigators that on April 2, 2020, he went to South St. Paul with the intention of fighting Nieves, noting they'd arranged on social media to fight because Nieves was dating his ex-girlfriend. 

Witnesses at the scene reported seeing Lopez pull up in an SUV and another vehicle carrying the victims and three other people pull up behind him, charges said. When the victims and others got out of the car, Lopez drove a short distance, then got out of his SUV and fired a shotgun at the victims before fleeing the scene. 

He shot Nieves in the head and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The 16-year-old boy suffered critical injuries when Lopez shot him in the chest, the charges said. 

Lopez contacted the Dakota Communications Center to report he'd just shot two people and was then taken into custody.

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He told investigators he used his shotgun when he saw multiple people get out of the car, charges said. He also admitted to threatening to kill Nieves on social media several times before meeting up with him that day to fight. 

A Dakota County grand jury in November 2020 indicted Lopez on first-degree murder charges. He waived a jury trial. 

Lopez was sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole in Nieves' death and 173 months (more than 14 years) in the non-fatal shooting of the 16-year-old boy.

He was found not guilty of attempted first-degree murder, and the judge dismissed the remaining charges of second-degree murder and first-degree assault. 

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