MAYS LANDING — The man accused in the murder of his ex-girlfriend in Atlantic City in 2017 has pleaded guilty, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Jose B. Lopez, of Ventnor, was arrested after 54-year-old Bessy Blanco was found stabbed to death inside her home on North Harrisburg Avenue on Feb. 18, 2017. Blanco’s friend, Mark Richart, who was with her at the time, was also found stabbed on the street outside the home, but survived the incident.

Lopez, 53, pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder Thursday in Atlantic County Superior Court, according a press release from Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner. Spokeswoman Donna Weaver could not be immediately reached for additional comment.

Lopez’s attorney was last listed in the court records as Steve Scheffler, of Northfield, who also could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The murder charge carries a prison term of 30 years without parole. The attempted murder charge carries a 20-year term of which Lopez must serve 85 percent. The sentences will be served concurrently.

Lopez, who was indicted in May 2017 on nine charges — three counts of murder and one count each of attempted murder, burglary, armed robbery, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, theft and carjacking — has been in the Atlantic County jail since his arrest.

Lopez was detained the day after Blanco’s death by Galloway Township police when they found him in Richart’s car.

According to statements from the affidavit, Lopez was kicked out of Blanco’s home days before the murder and was staying with his mother in Ventnor.

Prosecutors described Lopez as a jealous ex-boyfriend who allegedly called Blanco’s daughter after the murder to blame her for what happened.

At her funeral, friends and family described Blanco, who worked in the casinos in Atlantic City and had suffered a string of tragedies prior to her untimely death, as “a legend.” She had raised money for the community and families in need, and took in her sister’s children in 2000 when their parents and another sibling were killed in an Egg Harbor City car crash.

Blanco’s niece Rebecca Blanco, who had spoken previously on behalf of the family and set up an online fundraiser after Bessy Blanco’s death, could not be reached at previously provided contact information.

Lopez’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 10, 2019.

Contact: 609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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