San Diego

Closing Arguments Heard in Trial For Father Accused in Deadly RB Condo Fire

Henry Lopez is accused of falling asleep drunk on Oct. 28, 2017, with a lit cigarette in his mouth, which led to a fire in his condominium that killed his two children, Isabella Lopez, 7, and Cristos Lopez, 10

Closing arguments were heard Tuesday in the trial for a father accused of drinking himself to sleep before a fire ignited at his two-story Rancho Bernardo condo, leading to the death of his two children.

Isabella Lopez, 7, and Cristos Lopez, 10, were asleep when a fire broke out at their father's two-story condo on Bernardo Terrace in Rancho Bernardo around 3:15 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2017. Both children were killed in the blaze. 

Their father, Henry Lopez, was charged with five felonies in connection with their deaths, including involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and the reckless starting of a fire. He pleaded not guilty to all charges in December 2018.

During closing arguments prosecutors rehashed allegations that Lopez drank himself to sleep with a cigarette in his mouth, which started the fire.

“This is what killed Henry Lopez’s children: a bottle of Canadian whiskey, a discarded cigarette and bad parenting,” Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterley said.

At his preliminary hearing in February 2018, prosecutors said Lopez's blood-alcohol level was 0.26 percent when it was taken at the hospital.

Lopez's defense attorney, Paul Neuharth, said there is no evidence that Lopez was smoking inside his bedroom and said Lopez's iPhone and an off-brand charger caused the fire when they produced a spark that ignited the bed and the rest of the house.

Prosecutors also accused Lopez of forgetting about his children when he was woken up by the fire

“A parents first thought is to their children; that was not Henry Lopez’s first thought,” said Sutterley. “Either he was too drunk or to selfish and he left them behind.”

Lopez's defense said that he immediately ran back in the apartment when he realized his children were still inside.

“He returned and he passed out, and for all intents and purposes this man died, he gave his life for his children," Neuharth said. "When he woke up [the second time] he thought his children had been saved. He thought he had saved them. He didn’t remember that. What more can you ask of a parent than to give their life?” 

The defense said the 10-year-old boy was found inside his father’s room, burned to death. The 7-year-old girl was found dead on the bottom bunk bed of her brother’s room.

The defense said Isabella used to sneak into her brother’s room late at night when she was scared of the dark -- which is why she was in there that fatal night.

The children’s mother, Nikia Lopez, said she once caught Lopez smoking a marijuana cigarette in his bed.

His attorney, however, claimed Lopez never smoked cigarettes inside the house and only on his bedroom balcony. Prosecutors say investigators found a cup containing 75 cigarette butts in Lopez's trash can.

Nikia Lopez also said that when she had breast cancer Lopez would take care of her and then drink himself to sleep and vomit on himself.

The case was supposed to go to trial in November 2018, but there were delays in court proceedings. The jury is now in deliberations.

If convicted, Henry Lopez could face 14 years in prison.

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