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Spring Hill man charged in March killing in Tampa

TAMPA — A Spring Hill man was arrested on a murder charge Sunday in connection with the March shooting death of his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend, according to Hillsborough sheriff's deputies.

Samuel Ortiz Lopez, 32, was arrested Sunday morning on a warrant charging him with first-degree murder.

Lopez drove to the Tampa home of Ignacio David Aponte-Muriel, 34, at about 9 p.m. March 23, and shot him to death in his front yard, deputies said. The two men had argued during multiple phone conversations earlier in the day over a child support dispute between Aponte-Muriel and Lopez's girlfriend.

Lopez's friends and family later told deputies that he had made threats to kill Aponte-Muriel.

Prior to the shooting, Aponte-Muriel was talking to his sister via phone, telling her that Lopez had threatened to come to his house and kill him, according to an arrest report. During the conversation, he told his sister that Lopez had arrived. She heard gunshots and the voice of another man yelling profanities, according to the report.

A witness saw Aponte-Muriel running across his yard as shots came from the driver's side window of a car, deputies said. He was shot in the back and died in a side yard next to his home.

Witnesses saw Lopez flee in a gray two-door car after the shooting, authorities said. Investigators later found surveillance images of him driving the car 50 minutes before the shooting at a storage facility about 3 miles from Aponte-Muriel's home.

Aponte-Muriel served time in prison for charges related to drug trafficking. He had a pending criminal case at the time of his death for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

In 1999, Lopez and an accomplice were accused of breaking into an apartment near the University of South Florida and raping a woman.

His accomplice, Christian Rodriguez, fled to Puerto Rico, where he was captured in 2005 after being featured on the TV show America's Most Wanted. Rodriguez was later sentenced to life in prison.

Lopez was initially charged in that case with sexual battery and armed kidnapping, but pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to 10 years' probation. He was arrested again in 2006 and 2008 for violating probation.

He was being held Sunday without bail in the Hillsborough County Jail.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Dan Sullivan can be reached at dsullivan@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3321.

Spring Hill man charged in March killing in Tampa 07/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 18, 2011 6:45am]
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