San Diego

Father Charged in Deaths of 2 Children in Rancho Bernardo Fire

If convicted of all charges, Henry Lopez could face 14 years in prison

When a Rancho Bernardo man was rescued from a fire that killed his two children in October, he was intoxicated and a melted whiskey bottle was found next to his bed, prosecutors said Thursday.

Henry Lopez appeared in a downtown courtroom to face five felonies including two counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of child endangerment causing death and one count of reckless fire starting.

Lopez was found at the top of the stairs in the two-story condo on Bernardo Terrace on Oct. 28. 

His 7-year-old daughter, Isabella Lopez, was found in bed in a separate bedroom from her father. She died of smoke inhalation at a nearby hospital. 

His son, 10-year-old Cristos Lopez, was found with burn injuries and smoke inhalation in his father's bedroom. He died later of his injuries.

Fire investigators concluded the fire was started by discarded smoking materials. 

Prosecutors say Lopez had a blood-alcohol level at .26 percent when it was taken at the hospital.  In comparison, a BAC of 0.08 percent or above is illegal to operate a vehicle in California while 0.04 percent or above is the limit for drivers of commercial vehicles. 

"Essentially he drank himself to sleep in bed and passed out with a lit cigarette, which ultimately caused his condo to burn down and thus his children to die in the fire," Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterly with the San Diego County District Attorney's Office said. 

Lopez pleaded not guilty and was permitted supervised release, according to the ruling by Judge Halgren. As part of the order, Lopez must wear a court-issued bracelet that will notify the authorities if he has been drinking. 

Lopez did not issue a statement as he walked out of the courthouse. 

The children’s father had allegedly threatened to burn down the family's home weeks before the fire that killed his children, according to court documents.

In a temporary restraining order obtained by NBC 7, the children's mother, Nikia Lopez, said her husband texted her, "I will burn all of this (expletive) down" in a conversation about a missing mortgage payment.

In the request for the temporary restraining order, granted on Sept. 18, Nikia also said her estranged husband had an issue with alcohol abuse.

An online fundraising page was created to assist Nikia and her two college-age children with finances. 

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

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