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10:45am — 31-Year-Old Gets Life Sentence

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Man still claims innocence in 2001 Socorro murder case.

Ramon Lopez, 31, convicted in July of felony murder and other charges in the April 2001 death of Crystal Houston-Calderella, was sentenced last week to life in prison, El Defensor Chieftain in Socorro reported over the weekend.

Lopez, found guilty by a state District Court jury of raping and strangling Houston-Calderella, told state District Judge Matt Reynolds at his sentencing hearing last Wednesday, "I’m not a murderer. I’m not a rapist. Never in the world would I hurt a girl. Never in the world would I hurt a woman."

Lopez also told the judge he had done bad things in his life and was a drug addict, but that he had not hurt or killed anyone, the Defensor Chieftain reported.

But Special Prosecutor Rey Montano told the judge that Lopez had shown a lack of sensitivity to Houston-Calderella’s death during his 60-day evaluation since being convicted, and that Lopez has racked up 20 felony convictions since 1994, according to the paper.

"If I could ask for 100 years, I would," Montano told the judge.

But Reynolds sentenced Lopez to life in prison (in New Mexico, a minimum of 30 years before becoming eligible for parole), 15 years for an alternative second-degree murder conviction and 4 1/2 years for auto theft — all to run concurrently, the paper reported.

Jurors deliberated just four hours before finding Lopez guilty of all charges against him — charges that also included kidnapping, rape and tampering with evidence, according to an earlier Defensor Chieftain report.

Lopez will be 61 before he becomes eligible for parole, the paper said.