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Police hoping for leads in 2008 teen execution

Posted at 8:19 AM, Nov 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-13 11:19:01-05

Seven years have passed since a Spring Valley High School junior was executed in a storm drain under Tropicana west of I-215.

Action News recently got unprecedented access to the unsolved homicide of Joseph Lopez, from the case file to the crime scene. Reporter Mahsa Saeidi has the new information police hope will lead to a break.  

"I feel there's at least two people who know exactly what happened down here and probably more," said retired Detective Laura Andersen.

Many of the students interviewed at the time were not cooperative, said police. 
 
It's believed that some of the teen's closest friends are continuing to withhold information.  
 
"Maybe this will resonate with somebody who realizes it's time to speak up and tell what happened that night with Joey," said Detective Andersen.  
 
Andersen was the lead investigator and one of the first on scene on the evening of April 28, 2008.
 

 
"We know the shooting happened right here at the end of this tunnel," she said, "did he run in here? was the trying to hide? was he forced in here?"
 
The crime scene photos show there was no struggle and this was no accident.  
 
Lopez was shot in the back, chest, and head.  His body was surrounded by shell casings. 
 
Action News went inside the storm channel where the execution occurred.  
 
"His head is here and he's curled up kind of along the side," said Detective Andersen pointing to the concrete. 
 
 
The teen's adoptive parents, Elaine Lopez and Pamela Leonard, said that spring day was like any other.  
 
At approximately 4p.m., the 17-year-old said he was going to a nearby park.  
 
"I told him to be back in an hour or so because I was cooking," said Lopez.  
 
She never saw her baby-faced son alive again.
 
"I kept texting him and calling him," said Lopez. "Finally, I got in my car and I drove past the scene."
 
Lopez told an officer her son was missing.  
 
After asking a few questions, the officer told Lopez to wait in a nearby parking lot.  
 
"I knew something was wrong, I just didn't know what happened to him," she said. 
 
As the worried mother waited outside the grate, she kept calling her son.
 
"It was really loud and it was echoing out through these grates," said Detective Andersen, "she could hear it and she was just distraught."
 
After many hours, Lopez said the coroner notified her it was Joseph laying dead in the drain.

"I think what was the most excruciating was waiting for them to tell me what was wrong," said the loving mom. 

Leonard said her son was active in school, gifted in sports, and a talented musician.  Above all else, he loved his unique family. 
 
"Holidays are really hard, even now 7 years later," she said. "There's a big big void that nothing can fill."
 
The two adoptive mom's first met Joseph when he was 3 weeks old.
 
"Actually he didn't realize he was black until he was in the fifth grade and somebody told him he was," said Leonard. 
 
"He definitely taught me to be colorblind from the time he came home from the hospital," she said. 
 
If you have any information on the case, you're asked to contact Homicide Detective Tod Williams by phone: (702) 828-3521 or email T3811W@LVMPD.com
 
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