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Tahlequah man sentenced to prison for 2022 murder

A local man was sentenced to prison after he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in Cherokee County District Court.

Raul Lopez-Fuentes, also known as Joe James Garcia, was accused of killing Andrew Hopkins and dumping his body in a wooded area July 2022.

According to an affidavit, Fuentes said he was angry because Hopkins allegedly stole a vehicle from a woman, and he had been sleeping with the suspect's wife.

On July 17, 2022, Cherokee County deputies were dispatched to Welling Bridge after Hopkins’ body was discovered wrapped in a raft. Fuentes was named as a suspect after a confidential informant spoke with investigators.

Fuentes was pulled over by a Tahlequah police officer after he drove up on investigators at his mechanic shop at 2141 W. Choctaw St.

The man initially denied that Hopkins’ body was at his residence, but eventually confessed to the killing. According to the affidavit, Garcia shot Hopkins in the head with a shotgun.

Fuentes was initially charged with first-degree murder; however, he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in August 2023. He was sentenced to 25 years to the Department of Corrections, with three years suspended.


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