Six-year sentences in 2017 burned body case

Three men indicted for first-degree murder in connection with a body found partially burned in a wooded area of Whitfield County in 2017 were convicted of voluntary manslaughter on Sept. 25 and sentenced to six years in prison with no opportunity of early release, according to court records cited by a Tennessee newspaper.

The body of Luis Antonio Lopez, 26, of La Vergne, Tennessee, was discovered by a 13-year-old boy in a wooded area near the Carbondale Road exit of I-75 on Jan. 10, 2017. After a joint investigation by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, authorities said Lopez had been killed in Davidson County, Tennessee, and the body brought to Georgia before being set on fire in Whitfield County.

Three Tennessee men — Kevin Isaza Palacio, 25, of Antioch, Hector J. Ruiz, 30, of Antioch, and Roberto Josue Viera-Aybar, 24, of La Vergne, believed to have been friends of Lopez, according to The Tennesseean newspaper in Nashville — were each indicted on first-degree murder charges in April 2018 after they were transferred from the Whitfield County jail.

According to court records originally reported in The Tennessean, each was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to six years in prison. Each also is ordered to have no contact with the victim’s family and must pay court costs. "Authorities have not released information on a motive in the killing," the newspaper said.

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