The Night I Slept With A Murderer

I hate thinking about how lucky I am to be alive.

author Courtesy of the author

He fell smack dab in between the father of my aborted fetus, and the man who left a hole in my heart: my one and only one-night stand. His name was Richard Lopez*, but I called him Rick.

From what I understand everyone still does — well, everyone except the New Mexico Corrections Department.

Rick lives at the Lea County Correctional Facility (LCCF), a medium-security prison in Hobbs, New Mexico; he’s serving life plus 75 years for first-degree murder. Five-and-a-half hours away from Albuquerque (where he and I met), LCCF is nestled in the southeast corner of the state, just thirty minutes away from Gaines County, Texas.


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Much like the other people I dated at the time, I met Rick late at night in a coffee shop; unlike the others, I was alone when I met him.

Rick introduced himself to me in early 2000 at Kona Cove Cafe and Deli, a 24-hour hole-in-the-wall joint up the road from where I was living. It was close enough to my apartment for me to walk to, which was good since all I did was walk in those days. Owned by a man who also operated an all-nude strip club, Kona Cove sold sandwiches made with Boar's Head meats and was rumored to serve as a front for prostitution.


All I knew was that it was open late at a time when I couldn't fall asleep. I had a lot on my mind then, and my heart was heavy with rejection.

The man who impregnated me had pretended to be asleep the night after my abortion, even when I climbed on top of him and wept while pounding his chest. Two months later, he proceeded to dump me with a handwritten letter on Valentine's Day.

We lived together at the time, so his lack of direct dumping was doubly hurtful. On the day I moved out (and into the house where I later brought Rick to fool around), I caught my ex prepping to masturbate when I walked into the bedroom to say goodbye.

Quiet, reserved, mournful, and lonely, I sat in that joint doing what I always did in late-night coffee shops then: bemoaning my existence by writing for hours in my journal. I don’t remember our conversation, but I do remember Rick's leering smile at the table and later, in his car as we drove away to his apartment.


I don't know if Rick has a roommate these days at the Correctional Facility, but when I knew him he did. At the time Rick was living with his then-girlfriend, or was she his wife? I don’t remember.

Whoever she was, he initially brought me home to meet her in hopes of us having a threesome. She signed off on Rick and me getting it on elsewhere, though, which was good since I wasn't attracted to her. Truth be told, I wasn't attracted to him, either.

He was everything I'd never wanted until that desperate moment: muscular, bronzed skin, sleazily charming. I'd always steered away from people who had been considered classically good-looking, instead favoring weirdos, heshers, and geeks.


But Rick had glasses, thick ones that made his big brown eyes look even bigger. I thought that could be enough. I wanted someone to fill the void created by my lost boyfriend/baby.

So instead of the proposed menage-à-trois, I snuck him into my basement apartment.

Rick was a terrible lay. His kisses were slobbery and negligent. He wasn't making out with me. He lapped at me like a hungry dog looking for the salt on my skin.

As a lover, he was cocky and boring, laid out flat on top of me with a roided-out hamster penis that was barely big enough to enter me, much less give me any pleasure. We would both have probably gotten a greater thrill if he'd been drunk and/or stupid, and stuck it in my navel instead — at least then I might have felt something.


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Rick called me the next day, eager for further validation of his perceived sexual prowess. “Did you have a good time, baby?” he leered into the mouthpiece. I could almost feel his hot, foul breath on my ear.

“Yeah,” I snapped. “I had a great time when you got off me and I went to sleep.”


Rick hung up, but not before we'd agreed to meet one more time. He'd left behind a folding pocket knife at my house, on my dresser. He emptied his trouser pockets before he climbed on top of me. He came back for it the next day. I handed it off to him without touching, a gulf of space between us.

Nevertheless, I thought my fling with Rick merited about a week’s worth of bragging rights. Other people didn't seem to agree.

While hanging out with a friend, her neighbor Debbie, a tall willowy brunette with brown eyes, dropped by to say hello. She overheard me prattling on about how boring Rick was, and how ridiculous I found his night-after phone chat to be.

“Stay away from that guy. He’s a f***ing creep,” Debbie warned. I laughed; she didn't. “No, seriously. He’s got some real problems with anger, and he can get super-violent. I wouldn't talk to him again if I were you.”


I didn't.

I never saw any of the things Debbie cautioned me about. Despite the vulnerability that made Rick seem so briefly enticing to me, I gave him nothing more than my body for one night — no in-depth conversation, no secrets revealed. He became a blip in my personal life, a momentary lapse of judgment that I could dismiss before moving on. Or so I thought.

On August 4, 2001, a year and a half after my one-night stand with Rick, he murdered his ex-girlfriend, a recent divorcee named Mary*. She died so that Rick could make rent.

Rick's roommate, Nic, knew that Mary was frightened of Rick, who'd made elaborate threats against her life after she began speaking with her ex-husband again. Nic nonetheless managed to lure Mary to their apartment by claiming that Rick had been diagnosed with lung cancer. They knew that she'd fall for it since her own brother had succumbed to the disease at 23.


Rick strangled Mary to death after they'd had sex one last time; she was handcuffed and then choked with a rope twisted around a baton. Rick and Nic stole her ATM card (she'd given up her PIN before she gave up breathing). The two tossed her corpse in a dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant, stole everything in her apartment, sold her clothes, then capped off their crimes with a night at the movies.

The cops caught up with Rick and Nic four days later after reviewing ATM video footage, but Mary's body was never found. Authorities gave up looking for it after searching the local landfill every day for six weeks.

Truth be told, despite the fact that I slept with a murderer during a one-off evening, I was afraid of Rick, too. I was weirded out by that knife he’d left behind, resting atop my dresser like he was hoping to have some reason to come back — or worse yet, hoping to have some reason to use it.

All photos courtesy of the author


I didn't hear about Mary's murder until much later, one evening at home as I watched the news. I settled onto the couch in shock as I heard Rick's name spoken in connection with the killing of a young woman.

Then I remembered “Have You Seen Me?” flyers for Mary posted on the community corkboard near the entrance of Insomnia Coffee House, the next 24-hour coffee spot I'd migrated to after Kona Cove finally closed. (Years later the Kona Cove owner, Bobby, joined Rick at LCCF after pleading guilty to multiple sex trafficking charges.)

Mary was two years older than me when Rick killed her. She was so different from who I was at that time. A New Mexico native, she was fit with straight teeth, a clean oval olive-toned face, a pert nose, and long brown hair.


Whereas I applied (and was not admitted) to Brown University for English, she briefly attended the Ivy League school’s pre med program in hopes of becoming a doctor. She left Brown to marry her high school sweetheart but their young marriage fell through.

She'd been in the throes of loss when she met Rick, then working as a cell phone salesman, at a booth at the New Mexico State Fair.

But the one thing Mary and I had in common was: We both had slept with a murderer.

We were both walking wounded when we met him, and like a voracious predator, Rick could smell pain-blood on us — I just happened to get away from him before he could sink his fangs into me.


Though I still thankfully know little about Rick, I hate that I know more about him than I do about Mary.

I hate that Rick destroyed her. I hate thinking about how lucky I am to be alive after Rick, not to mention the many other foolish mistakes I made before (and after) him. Even more, though, I hate knowing that as late as 2015, Rick's niece was posting online, on behalf of her uncle, on dating sites.

*name has been changed

If you or someone you know is experiencing dating violence, please visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website at or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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M. Brianna Stallings is an instructional designer, writer, editor, proofreader, and voice actor. She is currently working on her first book, and has had bylines in The Albuquerque Journal, The Montpelier Bridge, The Santa Fe Reporter, and The Weekly Alibi.