Republished with permission. Published on Umbrella of Suspicion
The Most Horrific Case of Child Abuse in U.S. History
Stephanie Lopez, the mother of Baby Brianna Lopez, will be eligible for parole this year. Her up-coming release has sparked outrage on a global scale. However, the New Mexico parole board has stated that, essentially, their hands are tied.
The murder of Baby Brianna Lopez is known as, “the most horrific case of child abuse in U.S. History”.
Baby Brianna was born on Valentines day in 2002 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She died at the age of five-months and five days old, on July 19, 2002 at the hands of her mother Stephanie Lopez, her father ,Andy Walters, and her uncle ,Steven Lopez, due to severe child abuse.
Baby Brianna was horrifically abused almost from the instant she left the hospital after she was born until the day of her death. On a daily basis she was slapped, kicked, punched, thrown, and raped by her father, Andrew Walters, and Uncle, Steven Lopez. Her mother Stephanie Lopez, Stephanie’s parents, and other family members were aware of the horrific abuse Baby Brianna was enduring, but not one of them said or did anything about it. In fact, Stephanie’s mother would later testify that Stephanie would pinch and bite baby Brianna when she became frustrated with her crying and that she was aware that her infant Granddaughter was being beaten, raped, pinched, punched, bite, and thrown around but “didn’t want to get involved”.
July 18, 2002
On the night of July 18, 2002, Stephanie, Andy, and Steven began drinking. Stephanie claims that she only had a few beers before heading off to bed, leaving Andy and Steven in the living room, where they continued drinking. After Stephanie went for bed, Andy and Steven thought it would be funny to toss Brianna up in the air, let her hit the ceiling, and then watch her hit the ground. It is not known how long their sick game continued but the father admits to “throwing her up three to four times”. Both men told authorities that Brianna was screaming and wailing as the abuse continued. Stephanie claims she did not hear anything that evening. It was later discovered during police interrogations that Steven Lopez, admitted that later in the evening he began to sodomize Baby Brianna, but stopped because he,”realized that what he was doing was wrong”.
July 19, 2002
Stephanie awoke early in the morning to the sound Brianna screaming in agony. She saw her infant covered in fresh bruises and asked Andy and Steven what happened to the baby. They both told her that they had been, “a little rough with her last night”. She didn’t ask any further questions and ignored Brianna’s pain and injuries and went back to sleep.
At about 7:00 am , Andrew Walters, admitted that he got up to change Brianna’s diaper and while doing so wrapped a baby wipe around his finger and sodomized baby Brianna. He returned to bed at 7:30 am and fell back to sleep. Stephanie awoke at approximately 10:00 pm and noticed that Brianna was unresponsive and not breathing. She called 911 stating that her daughter fell from her high chair. Brianna was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead at 11:10 am.
The autopsy findings concluded that Baby Brianna died from cranial cerebral injuries. She suffered 13 human bite marks through-out her entire body, bruising and scraping injuries throughout her head, as well as on her upper forehead. She suffered a blunt force injury to her head in the last three days or less of her life which resulted in a large subdurmal hematoma on her brain. Baby Brianna had bleeding within the membranes around the brains, as well as around her optical nerves which meant that she had been violently shaken. Additionally, she had a significant abrasion on her buttocks which went into the buttocks and was consistent with sexual assault. The baby’s anus has no muscle tone and gaped open, at her autopsy it was observed that her anal opening was dilated a full inch. The internal examination showed a half-inch injury inside the anal opening as well as significant vaginal trauma to the labia minor, and three tears to her hyman. Brianna’s skull had 5-7 day old fractures in two places, on two different bones. Both old and new blood were present, indicating a previous injury to the brain. Brianna had two rib fractures that were weeks old, bucket handle fractures on both thigh bones, and a fracture of her left arm.
Steven Lopez, was convicted of intentional child abuse resulting in death or great bodily harm, conspiracy to commit intentional child abuse resulting in death or great bodily harm, and criminal sexual penetration of a child under thirteen in the first degree. He received 51 year prison sentence.
Andrew Walters, was convicted of intentional child abuse resulting in death or great bodily harm, conspiracy to commit intentional child abuse resulting in death or great bodily harm, criminal sexual penetration of a child under thirteen in the first degree, intentional child abuse not resulting in death or great bodily harm, and negligently permitting child abuse. He was sentenced to 57 years in prison.
Stephanie Lopez, was convicted of negligently permitting child abuse and received a 27 year sentence.
Brianna’s Grandmother, Patricia Walters and her Uncle, Robert Walters Jr each were convicted of failing to report abuse resulting in death and received 2 months in jail.
In 2002, at the time of Brianna’s murder, intentional child abuse resulting in death carried a maximum sentence of 18 years in the state of New Mexico. In 2005, three years after Brianna’s murder, Senate Bill 166, known as the “Baby Brianna Bill” was finally enacted making child abuse resulting in death, a class A felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison, unfortunately, the bill can not be enacted retroactively so it does not apply to Baby Brianna’s killers or her mother.
Oct 28, 2016
According to the New Mexico Department of Corrections, “it is almost certain that Stephanie will be released as early as October, 2016, provided that she finds a suitable home and can meet the requirements of her release conditions.”
The public was out raged and several on-line petitions popped up in attempts to have Stephanie’s parole revoked which would require her to serve the full 27-year sentence. However, the New Mexico Department of Corrections made clear that Stephanie Lopez was only charged with child abuse and at the time of her conviction it was not considered a violent crime. She is entitled to early release/parole with “good behavior credits”. If she continues with her good behavior, she is protected under the law in which she received a deferment and is expected to be released in October 2016, at the latest.
That is less than 15 years for her part in the abuse and death of her child.
Baby Brianna Mariah Lopez would have been 14-years-old this Valentines Day, 2016.
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