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Taunton man warned his son before attack, police say

Pair charged with slaying of teenager

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / June 29, 2010

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TAUNTON — The father of a 17-year-old who was stabbed to death near a convenience store Friday night warned his son not to fight, because the other man, who he had been feuding with since middle school, had a knife, according to court records.

The father told police “that he saw [the suspect] with a knife and told his son he could not fight him fairly since he had no weapon,’’ the court records stated.

But the warning was not enough.

Two men chased 17-year-old Tigan Hollingsworth into a backyard not far from Grampy’s convenience store at the intersection of High and Weir streets and stabbed him to death, police said. He suffered 13 wounds to the head, back, and abdomen and was pronounced dead at Morton Hospital and Medical Center.

“This is another senseless killing involving youth violence,’’ Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said in a statement yesterday.

The police investigation quickly led to two suspects: Etnid Lopez, 17, of Taunton, who had an ongoing spat with Hollingsworth, according to court records, and his uncle, Irving Cruz, 24.

Cruz and Lopez were charged with murder and were ordered held without bail after their arraignment yesterday in Taunton District Court. Not-guilty pleas were entered on their behalf, and they are scheduled to return to court for a probable-cause hearing on July 29.

Police also charged Lopez’s brother, Jean Lopez, 19, with witness intimidation after allegedly lying to detectives investigating the stabbing. He told police he brought his brother home, but surveillance footage from the convenience store contradicts his story.

“He gave a completely inconsistent version of events of what happened,’’ Assistant Bristol District Attorney Garrett Fregault said in court yesterday.

A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf, and he was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail. He is expected to return to court July 20.

Several family members and friends of Hollingsworth did not want to comment at the brief court hearing yesterday. His father, Nicholas, could not be reached for comment.

A woman believed to be the mother of the Lopez brothers became ill in the courtroom and was treated by paramedics. Her condition was not immediately known yesterday.

Julie Hackett, superintendent of Taunton schools, said yesterday that Hollingsworth attended the local school system until the middle of the ninth grade and that teachers remembered him yesterday as a popular athlete. She said that he has three siblings who are still in the school system and that the family is close. Hollingsworth’s mother, Kendra Alves, is in close contact with the teachers of her youngest children, including two boys in elementary school, Hackett said.

“We’re very concerned for the siblings, just wonderful kids who are very close,’’ she said. “My heart goes out to his family and siblings. It’s just a horrible, senseless tragedy, and as a community we need to come together to make sure we never have to go through this again.’’

The fight began at around 11:30 p.m. Friday in the parking lot of the convenience store, at a well-traveled intersection. Police, citing witness accounts and the store’s surveillance footage, say that Etnid Lopez walked into the convenience store and seemed to secure something in his pocket. When he got out of the store, he started arguing with Hollingsworth, police said.

At one point, Jean Lopez and Cruz pulled up to the convenience store in a car, and Cruz and Etnid Lopez chased Hollingsworth, who apparently did not want any part of the confrontation, according to court records. They yelled, “That’s [him] right there; get him,’’ and the chase went a block in one direction down Weir Street, before Hollingsworth reversed course and tried to run into backyards along the street, the records stated.

A witness who lives in the area said he pulled into his driveway on Weir Street to see the chase end in a backyard. The witness, who was not identified, told police he saw a man later identified as Etnid Lopez grab Hollingsworth.

Cruz yelled: “Do you have him? Do you have him?’’ the witness told police. The witness then could hear slapping noises. Both men then jumped a fence and fled. The witness found Hollingsworth bleeding.

Jean Lopez told police that he had a house party Friday and that he went to the convenience store with Cruz to get cigars when he saw his brother arguing with another man. He told police that he put his brother into his car and left. However, surveillance footage showed that Etnid Lopez did not leave with his brother.

Sutter said that Jean Lopez was charged under the state’s witness intimidation statute for misleading investigators, and that the charge should serve as notice to “anyone thinking about lying to or misleading one of our investigators in a homicide or shooting case that we charged Mr. Lopez with this offense and that he is held at this time on $10,000 cash bail.’’

Milton Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.

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