12/18/08 — Police question person of interest in Mount Olive murder

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Police question person of interest in Mount Olive murder

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 18, 2008 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A Duplin County man already in custody on immigration violations has been named a person of interest in a Friday morning murder in Mount Olive.

Luis Hernandez, 38, of 242 Summerlins Crossroads Road, Kenansville, is being questioned in connection with the death of Santos Anton Lopez, 42, of 104 Dotsie Lane, Eureka.

Lopez was shot before falling out of the passenger door of a white Chevrolet Trailblazer with North Carolina license tag XXL-7089 that left the scene heading southbound on North Breazeale Avenue.

Mount Olive police are asking for the public's help in locating the vehicle, which they believe is in the Leland/ Wilmington area and owned by Hernandez, Mount Olive Chief of Police Ralph Schroeder said.

Lopez's vehicle, a 2002 Ford Expedition, was recovered at the Mt. Olive Centre shopping complex in Mount Olive.

The two men knew each other prior to the shooting, Schroeder said.

"We were made aware of the connection early in the investigation," he said. "Right now, we do not believe that it is gang-related. They just happened to meet in Mount Olive. We have had our guys working almost nonstop."

Hernandez has been deported once before, Schroeder said.

The shooting happened about 10:57 a.m. last Friday when police officers responded to a call about a Latino male in the roadway in the 1000 block of North Breazeale near the entrance to the Roses parking lot.

At first it was thought that Lopez had been struck by or had fallen out of a vehicle.

Lopez was transported by Wayne EMS to Wayne Memorial Hospital, where he later died. An autopsy performed Saturday confirmed the cause of death was a gunshot wound.

Hernandez was apprehended in Pitt County after a cooperative effort by members of the Mount Olive Police Department, FBI Gang Task Force/Wilmington, Duplin County Sheriff's Office and the Pitt County Sheriff's Office.

Schroeder also thanked Wayne County Sheriff's Sgt. Carter Hicks who came on the crime scene and secured it until police arrived.

Anyone with information about the vehicle or the case is asked to call the Mount Olive Police Department at 658-5031 ext. 104, Goldsboro/Wayne Crime stoppers at 735-2255, or their local law enforcement office.