Defendant Says Liquor, Prozac Caused Him To Kill Wife — (Miami Herald)

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The Miami Herald,  (FL)

May 29, 1991

Author: DONNA GEHRKE Herald Staff Writer

Giddy with love, Oscar Manuel Lopez married a woman almost half his age in a Fourth of July ceremony.

Consumed by rage, Lopez ended the romance almost three years later by firing a single gunshot into his young wife’s chest — while her 7-year-old son from a previous marriage watched in horror.

On Tuesday, the 60-year-old, white-haired Lopez went on trial for the April 7, 1990, murder of 33-year-old Grisel Yvette Lopez.

The once-smitten Lopez doesn’t deny he shot his wife, but contends he was insane — primed with booze, Prozac and other anti-depressant drugs. After killing Grisel at her new Hialeah apartment, police say, Lopez got into a gun battle with Hialeah police and also wounded Officer Marlene Sanchez.

“This is a case that does not fit easily into a cubbyhole,” Lopez’s attorney, William Tunkey, said in court Tuesday. His grandfatherly client listened silently, occasionally stroking his mustache.

Prosecutors accuse Lopez, who had no criminal record, of murdering his wife in cold blood. During jury selection Tuesday, Assistant State Attorney Marilyn Milian warned prospective jurors that the first-degree murder trial will not be pretty.

Milian said she would be forced to ask the victim’s 8-year- old son, Gabriel Herrera, what he saw when his stepfather fired at his mother through a living room window.

Three hours after the fatal shot, the child told police: “Oscar threw a bullet. And then my mom screamed, and told me that, ‘Call the police and tell them to come immediately.’ ”

Just days earlier, the boy’s mother had asked Dade County courts for an emergency injunction against her husband while she sought a divorce.

She told Metro-Dade detective Carlos Negrin that her husband was “extremely jealous” and was “harassing” her at the Hialeah bank where she worked.

Lopez wanted her to sign a paper that would authorize him to withdraw the couple’s savings, police say. She refused.

The marriage had not always been rocky. Lopez proudly squired her to work picnics and Christmas parties.

“He had to be very, very happy when he met this young lady,” said Pat Mazzara, Lopez’s former boss at a screen factory, Climatrol Inc. “He made it public to everyone in the plant.”

Mazzara added: “He was one of the best employees I ever had.”

Mazzara described Lopez as a quiet man who became tired and depressed two weeks before the fatal shooting. Lopez told his boss that his young wife was mentally ill.

Lopez himself saw a psychiatrist the day before the shooting. The next day, he picked up his Climatrol paycheck just before going on vacation. He wanted time off to ease the stress.

“I asked him if everything was OK, and he said, ‘Yeah, everything is fine,’ ” Mazzara said in a deposition.

But Tunkey, Lopez’s lawyer, contends that Lopez suffered from severe depression, schizophrenia and paranoia. Lopez had resumed drinking, even while taking Prozac and other anti-depressants.

Tunkey says Lopez never intended to hurt his wife — or get into a gun battle with Hialeah police after speeding away from the crime scene in his brown Cadillac. Lopez was shot but not before he wounded Officer Sanchez.

Tunkey’s conclusion: Lopez was insane. Not everyone agrees, including some experts.

Prosecutor Milian warned prospective jurors: “I can tell you there is going to be conflict between psychiatrists.”

Copyright (c) 1991 The Miami Herald
Record Number:  9102050851