Hudson Valley Man Murdered Missing New York Teacher
Sadly, a Hudson Valley family will never have closure because officials confirmed they don't think her body will ever be found.
On Wednesday, Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler confirmed an Orange County, New York man was sentenced for killing a woman who went missing from the City of Newburgh in late 2019.
Newburgh, New York Man Confesses To Killing Missing City of Newburgh, New York Woman
Matthew Mercado, 40, of Newburgh, pleaded guilty in Orange County Court in August of 2022 to manslaughter in the second degree, burglary in the second degree, and tampering with physical evidence.
Mercado pleaded guilty in connection with the death of 36-year-old Jessica Lopez, a City of Newburgh woman who was last seen on November 3, 2019, at the Windsor Motel in the Town of New Windsor.
“By all accounts, Jessica Lopez was a remarkable young woman and her loss is being severely felt by her family, friends, and many of her former students,” Hoovler said in 2020 when Mercado was charged with murdering Lopez.
Newburgh Woman Goes Missing in 2019
In 2019, the New Windsor Police Department said finding Lopez was the department's top priority since taking over the investigation from the City of Newburgh Police Department and learning about the suspicious nature surrounding Jessica’s disappearance.
Lopez was described as being 5'3" and 135 pounds with light brown eyes and brown hair with highlights. The FBI also searched for Lopez.
Police and Lopez's family believed her car could give the best clues as to what happened to her. Her silver 2005 Toyota Camry, NY Registration JDC9597, was found at Showtime Cinema on Route 300 in the Town of Newburgh.
Lopez, who went by the name "Yessica," is a former teacher in Newburgh, according to her social media accounts.
Her brother said she recently quit her job working at a health clinic in Newburgh to care for their sick father.
Their brother, Franklin Lopez, died in December 2018.
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Newburgh Man Confesses to Manslaughter
At the time Mercado pleaded guilty to manslaughter, he confessed to causing Lopez's death by giving her a variety of illegal narcotics and drugs, which caused Jessica Lopez to have a severe adverse reaction, on November 3, 2019, at approximately 5:00 a.m., while he and Lopez were alone inside Room 33 of the Windsor Motel.
He also admitted that he noticed Lopez having a bad reaction to the drugs but failed to obtain medical aid for her and instead kept her concealed inside the motel room where she died.
"Mercado also stated that at the time he saw Jessica Lopez having a reaction to the illegal drugs and failed to obtain medical treatment for her, he consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that she could die from the drugs. Matthew Mercado admitted that had Jessica Lopez received prompt medical care she could have survived and that his actions caused her death," the Orange County District Attorney's Office stated in a press release.
Newburgh Man Pleads Guilty to Tampering with Physical Evidence
Mercado also confessed to moving Lopez's dead body from the hotel room, placing her in the trunk of her car, and hiding her body so that it could not be found by the authorities.
New Information Regarding Where Body Was Dumped
As part of the plea agreement, Mercado agreed to provide information concerning where he left Lopez’s body to aid.
After pleading guilty, Mercado admitted to disposing of her body in a particular dumpster in Newburgh.
Items from the Newburgh dumpster were later brought to a Pennsylvania landfill
"District Attorney Hoovler personally went to Lackawanna County and spoke to the local District Attorney to facilitate the search and was also at the landfill when police officers and cadaver dogs searched for Ms. Lopez. Unfortunately, despite those efforts, it is unlikely Ms. Lopez’s remains will ever be recovered," the DA's office stated in a press release.
On Wednesday, Mercado was sentenced to 16 to 19 years in prison.
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“This defendant admitted killing Jessica Lopez by giving her the illegal drugs and then preventing her from receiving medical care which likely would have saved her,” Hoovler said. “We will never know exactly what happened to Ms. Lopez due to his cruel actions in hiding her body from her family and the police and tampering with other evidence."