Hudson Valley Man Confesses After Missing New York Teacher Killed
A Hudson Valley man gave key details about what led to the death of a missing New York woman and will give clues to help police find her body.
On Thursday, Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler confirmed an Orange County, New York man confessed to killing a woman who went missing from the City of Newburgh in late 2019.
Newburgh, New York Man Confesses To Killing Missing City of Newburgh, New York Woman
Matthew Mercado, 39, of Newburgh, pleaded guilty in Orange County Court to manslaughter in the second degree, burglary in the second degree, and tampering with physical evidence, in connection with the death of 36-year-old Jessica Lopez, a City of Newburgh woman who was last seen on November 3, 2019, at the Windsor Motel in the Town of New Windsor.
“By all accounts Jessica Lopez was a remarkable young woman and her loss is being severely felt by her family, friends, and many of her former students,” Hoovler said in 2020 when Mercado was charged with murdering Lopez.
Newburgh Woman Goes Missing in 2019
In 2019, the New Windsor Police Department said finding Lopez was the department's top priority since taking over the investigation from City of Newburgh police and learning about the suspicious nature surrounding Jessica’s disappearance.
Lopez was described as being 5'3" and 135 pounds with light brown eyes and brown hair with highlights. The FBI also searched for Lopez.
Police and Lopez's family believed her car could give the best clues as to what happened to her. Her silver 2005 Toyota Camry, NY Registration JDC9597, was found at Showtime Cinema on Route 300 in the Town of Newburgh.
Lopez, who goes by the name "Yessica," is a former teacher in Newburgh, according to her social media accounts. Her brother says she recently quit her job working at a health clinic in Newburgh to care for their sick father. Their brother, Franklin Lopez, died in December 2018.
Newburgh Man Confesses to Manslaughter
At the time Mercado pleaded guilty to manslaughter, he confessed to causing Lopez's death by giving her a variety of illegal narcotics and drugs, which caused Jessica Lopez to have a severe adverse reaction, on November 3, 2019, at approximately 5:00 a.m., while he and Lopez were alone inside Room 33 of the Windsor Motel.
He also admitted that he noticed Lopez having a bad reaction to the drugs but failed to obtain medical aid for her and instead kept her concealed inside the motel room where she died.
"Mercado also stated that at the time he saw Jessica Lopez having the reaction to the illegal drugs and failed to obtain medical treatment for her, he consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that she could die from the drugs. Matthew Mercado admitted that had Jessica Lopez received the prompt medical care she could have survived and that his actions caused her death," the Orange County District Attorney's Office stated in a press release.
Newburgh Man Pleads Guilty to Tampering with Physical Evidence
Mercado also confessed to moving Lopez's dead body from the hotel room, placing her in the trunk of her car, and hiding her body so that it could not be found by the authorities.
Her body has yet to be found, but Mercado says he will give up that information.
"As part of the plea agreement, Mercado agreed to provide accurate information concerning where he secreted Jessica Lopez’s body, and further agrees to comply with all lawful requests of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, and any law enforcement agency designated by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, to aid in the recovery of Jessica Lopez’s remains. Mercado also agreed to execute any documents necessary to prove in any legal forum that Jessica Lopez is deceased and what he had done with her remains, the Orange County District Attorney's Office stated."
As part of his plea agreement, the Orange County District Attorney's Office will recommend a sentence of 17 to 19 years in prison. Mercado is scheduled to be sentenced in November.
“I hope that this disposition proves some measure of closure to this remarkable young woman’s grieving family, friends, and former students,” Hoovler said on Thursday. “This defendant’s actions in giving her the illegal drugs, which he admits killed her, and preventing her from receiving medical care, which likely would have saved her, was made even more egregious by his cruel actions in hiding her body from her family and the police. Jessica’s family deserved better than not knowing what happened to their daughter and sister, and it was simply cruel to deny them the ability to provide a dignified way to inter her remains.”