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Family, friends of slain woman gather at Dubuque courthouse as judge sentences man who killed her

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 4:57 AM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - A packed courtroom in Dubuque County saw a judge sentence an Illinois man to 50 years in prison after killing a former girlfriend.

Authorities say 22-year-old Richard Forsythe of Galena stabbed 20-year-old Jennifer Lopez at least 15 times. They say he then left her body at the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in February this year.

Forsythe pleaded guilty to second degree murder and must complete at least 70 percent of his sentence, or 35 years, before becoming eligible for parole.

Friends and family of Lopez gathered both inside and outside of the courtroom at the Dubuque County Courthouse. Many of them were wearing pink t-shirts that read “Justice for Jennifer Lopez”, while others stayed outside with signs that read “No justice, no peace.”

But it was Lopez’s mother, Maria Lopez, who had the most to share on the stand Tuesday morning. Both her, and Lopez’s father, Octavio, to a lesser extent, went into detail of the pain Forsythe has inflicted on the Lopez family. The mother, who spoke in Spanish and had a translator then translate it to English, said they deal with constant anxiety, nightmares, and panic attacks.

”He left us with an emptiness,” she mentioned. “Every time we look at her bedroom, her clothes, all of her things; every day knowing she will never come back.”

Lopez’s mother explained her daughter had begged her the month before her death for the family to move out of Dubuque. She now says she struggles with regret every day.

”If I had considered it, if I had taken it more seriously, maybe she would still be here with us,” she added.

Prosecutors initially charged Forsythe with first degree murder, but he later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder. Lopez’s mother said the family wanted that first degree murder sentence.

Forsythe is also required to pay $150,000 in restitution to the victim’s family and more than $12,000 to the Iowa Crime Victim Compensation Program.

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