Man sentenced in the deaths of two men who were former classmates

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A Winston-Salem man could serve up to 10 years in prison for his role in the fatal shootings of two men who got caught up in a drug deal gone wrong.

Santiago Valdez Lopez, 25, pleaded guilty Thursday in Forsyth Superior Court to two counts of voluntary manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to traffic cocaine.

He had faced first-degree murder charges in connection to the deaths of Corey Martel Torain, 24, of Burlington, and Tyrell Lemonz Wheeler, 25, of Rural Hall.

Judge John O. Craig III consolidated the two counts of voluntary manslaughter into one as part of a plea arrangement and sentenced Valdez to a total of seven years and 11 months, to 10 years and three months in prison.

Torain and Wheeler were classmates at Cummings High School in Burlington and at Winston-Salem State University. Their bodies were found the night of June 27, 2010, outside Torain’s Honda Accord in Lambeth Mobile Village off South Main Street.

Wheeler was shot five times, including three in the head. Torain was shot seven times in the chest. Police found shell casings from .380-caliber and 9 mm guns. The murder weapons were never found.

Assistant District Attorney Matt Breeding said Torain and Wheeler had set up a deal to buy drugs from Valdez at the mobile home. Both men were armed, and Torain wore a bullet-resistant vest, he said.

This article was written by Michael Hewlett and originally published by The Winston-Salem Journal.

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