Manny Lopez was a sadistic person who directed his long-term abuse victim to have sex with and kill animals before ultimately forcing him to escalate his crimes and kill a person. At least that’s what convicted killer Luka Magnotta claims Lopez forced him to do.
But who is this shady Lopez character? Does he exist at all or is he just a figure of Magnotta’s twisted imagination?
The new Netflix docu-series “Don't F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer” explores the shocking story of Magnotta, who first appeared on social media in multiple videos killing animals before recording himself brutally murdering a college student, triggering an international manhunt.
Warning: Spoilers below.
In 2012, Magnotta posted a video called “1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick,” which showed him killing college student Jun Lin, an engineering student he met on Craigslist. He then mailed Lin’s dismembered body parts to institutions across Canada. Before murdering Lin, animal rights activists and online sleuths featured in the docu-series had been seeking him out after he uploaded multiple videos showing him killing animals.
While Magnotta didn’t deny killing Lin, he claimed the murder was done at the behest of a mysterious character named Manny Lopez. He said that Lopez was watching the murder from an SUV in the parking lot of Magnotta’s apartment building. Magnotta claimed it was Lopez who was calling the shots, telling Magnotta what to do to Lin via cellphone.
Anna Yourkin, Magnotta’s mother, explained in the docu-series that her son began talking about Lopez years before Lin's murder. After Magnotta failed to make it as an actor and model, he began working as an escort. She said that he met Lopez while engaged in that line of work and he quickly gained control over him.
She called Lopez her son’s “keeper,” a man who would continually follow her son despite Magnotta moving and changing his phone number.
“He was a stalker,” she claimed, adding that her son said Lopez told him, “‘I have connections. You’ll do what I say.’”
The first time Yourkin heard rumors that her son killed a cat in a video, she felt “something wasn’t right.”
“I asked him about the video,” she said in the film. “He said, ‘I was forced to do it.’ He said, ‘Manny.’ He explained that Manny was selling videos of animals being tortured or murdered on the deep web, and he was making an awful lot of money.”
Yourkin said her son instructed her to watch one of the torture videos all the way to the end. She did, and claims she could see someone else's hands in it. She believes those hands belonged to Lopez.
The mother offered to go to the police, but said her son advised her not to out of safety concerns.
Joel Watts, a defense psychiatrist who later conducted a forensic assessment of Magnotta, said he researched Magnotta and found that Magnotta had been talking about Lopez for years. Romeo Salta, an attorney whom Magnotta approached after being accused of animal abuse, said that Magnotta was complaining to him about Lopez a year and a half before Lin’s murder.
“He said that Manny is always there,” Salta said in the docu-series. “Manny is torturing him and forcing him to do these things.”
Magnotta even sent him an email entitled "list of abuse from Manny," which rattled off various disturbing acts. Among them, Magnotta claimed that Lopez strangled him with an electrical cord, stabbed him with a pencil and pen, forced him to eat animal parts and worms, and forced him to have sex with cats and a puppy.
Late at night, Magnotta would send Salta cryptic emails, claiming that Lopez was outside his house. He also claimed he was kidnapped and brought from New York to Miami Beach, Florida where he was raped by Lopez and others, beaten and then abandoned on a beach. There was even a police report to verify that, Salta said.
But is Lopez real?
Investigators said there's nothing to corroborate Lopez's existence and they don't believe he's an actual person. Furthermore, there was no record of Magnotta making or receiving any phone calls the night he murdered Lin, contradicting his claims that he was talking to Lopez by phone, receiving directions.
Magnotta alone was convicted of first-degree murder for Lin's killing in 2014. He's currently serving life in prison.
While Magnotta’s mother maintains that Lopez does indeed exist, others like Deanna Thompson, one of the online sleuths featured in the docu-series, believes he made the whole thing up. She calls Lopez “a con” and a pretend “alibi.”
Salta said the possibility his former client made up a fictitious alibi years before committing a murder is both “psychotic and brilliant at the same time.”
If Magnotta did simply conjure Lopez as a way to shift the blame for his crimes, what might have driven that decision?
During his trial, a psychiatrist who testified for the defense said that Magnotta had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia about a decade before Lin's murder, the Montreal Gazette reported at the time. He had been in psychiatric institutions several times, including following the Miami Beach incident. However, a psychiatrist who testified for the prosecution argued that Magnotta didn't behave like someone with paranoid schizophrenia, the CBC reported. Instead, they blamed the previous diagnosis on drug use.
The eerie similarities between Lin's murder and one of Magnotta's favorite movies –– 1992's "Basic Instinct" –– could also shed some light on the question of Lopez's existence. Yourkin mentions in the docu-series that her son was obsessed with the iconic Sharon Stone film. She still keeps her son’s old “Basic Instinct” key chain as a keepsake. The online sleuths in “Don’t F**k With Cats” believe that Lin’s death was even an homage to the movie.
The way Magnotta tied Lin to the bed appears to mimic the way Stone’s character, Catherine Tramell, kills her lover in the film's opening. She straddled her victim as she stabbed him with an ice pick. Magnotta also straddled his victim and used a screwdriver that he modified to look like an ice pick. In the movie, Tramell's ex-boyfriend is named Manuel, or Manny, Vásquez.
So, perhaps it's possible that a work of fiction influenced this true crime that seems stranger than fiction.
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