Colorado Springs man headed for trial in killing stemming from Facebook spat

August 1, 2013 Updated: August 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm

A Colorado Springs man will face trial on second-degree murder charges in a fatal stabbing on the city's north side, an El Paso County judge ruled Thursday.

After a brief preliminary hearing in 4th Judicial District Court, Judge Scott A. Sells ruled that prosecutors have enough evidence to try Elton Lamar Johnson Jr., 20, in the May 7 stabbing death of Juan Carlos Lopez-Herrera.

Johnson was ordered held on $50,000 bond pending trial. He is expected to return to court for arraignment on Aug. 29.

According to Colorado Springs police testimony, Lopez-Herrera, 39, was slain and Johnson was stabbed in the leg when they clashed in Lopez-Herrera's driveway in the 8200 block of Camfield Circle, just north of Austin Bluffs Parkway and Woodmen Road.

Johnson told police he went to Lopez-Herrera's home to smooth over a Facebook quarrel between Lopez-Herrera and another man when a fight broke out.

Detective Deborah Adelbush said Johnson traced the quarrel to Lopez-Herrera's attempts on Facebook to buy drugs and a gun from a friend of Johnson.

The defendant told police he only wanted to "calm" Lopez-Herrera, and he broke down in tears while telling a detective that he stabbed Lopez-Herrera in self-defense, Adelbush said.

Johnson, who sought medical help for his leg wound, initially gave a different explanation for his injury, Adelbush said. She testified that he claimed to hospital staff and, later, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office that he was wounded while disarming one of two men who tried to rob him on the street.

The made-up story was one of three versions Johnson gave to police about his confrontation, eventually settling on his claim that he stabbed Lopez-Herrera in self-defense.

During cross-examination, public defender Michele Newell pointed out that Lopez-Herrera reportedly held a black belt in martial arts, and she elicited testimony that a witness to the fight claimed that it was Lopez-Herrera who drew the knife.

The witness, a friend who accompanied Johnson to the victim's home, recounted to police how Johnson kicked the knife out of Lopez-Herrera's hand and picked it up from the ground.

The stabbing occurred after Lopez-Herrera punched Johnson and threatened him with "some weird, crazy Chinese sh*t" - apparently a martial arts stance, according to the witness. Police said Lopez-Herrera repeatedly told Johnson to leave his home before the fight.

Although arrest documents for Johnson said that Lopez-Herrera had also insulted the wife of Johnson's friend, that claim wasn't reprised at Thursday's hour-long preliminary hearing.

With prior convictions for trespassing and providing false information to a pawn broker - both felonies - Johnson is also facing a sentence enhancer that could multiply any sentences if convicted. Second-degree murder normally results in up to 48 years in prison.

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