Retired cops recall 20-year-old murder - Beloit Daily News: News

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Retired cops recall 20-year-old murder

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Posted: Saturday, January 19, 2008 12:00 am

By Krista Brown

Daily News staff writer

Two retired members of the Beloit Police Department, a patrol officer and a detective, testified for the prosecution Friday in the preliminary hearing for accused killer Ezequiel Lopez-Zavala.

Lopez-Zavala, 42, is accused of stabbing 22-year-old David J. Landwehr to death on Sept. 19, 1988 in the 900 block of Vine Street. He was arrested in late October in Bellevue, Wash., where he had been living under an assumed name. Lopez-Zavala was stopped for a minor traffic violation, but eventually he was arrested. After running is fingerprints through the FBI database, it was discovered he was wanted for first degree murder in Beloit.

He was returned to Rock County last month.

At the hearing Friday, former patrol officer Bobby Pittman testified that he was the first officer on the scene in 1988 after responding to a call for a stabbing on Vine Street. When he arrived on scene, he found Landwehr lying on the terrace of a lawn, dead from what appeared to be stab wounds, he said.

Pittman said he kept a photo of suspect Lopez-Zavala in his briefcase throughout his career in hopes of some day finding and charging him. Pittman retired from the force in 2004.

Shortly after the homicide, Lopez-Zavala was arrested in Winnebago County in Illinois, where a circuit court judge ordered he be held on a $50,000 bond. In Illinois, only 10 percent of a bond needs to be posted before a person is released, and Lopez-Zavala was able to post the necessary money.

A warrant was eventually reissued for his arrest, but by that time Lopez-Zavala had left Winnebago County, and when he didn't appear in court for a scheduled hearing, the Beloit Police Department enlisted the help of the FBI to capture him.

It took 19 years.

Rock County District Attorney David O'Leary also called to the stand former Beloit Police Detective Victor Hanson, who also responded to the scene on the morning of the murder.

Hanson testified that he interviewed Lopez-Zavala on the morning of the murder, after his arrest, but many of the near-20-year-old details were unclear. But he did remember Landwehr's sister, the then-girlfriend of Lopez-Zavala, accusing Lopez-Zavala of the stabbing.

An arraignment is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 1.

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