LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A Las Cruces mother convicted in one of New Mexico’s most horrific child abuse cases will be released later this month, after serving less than half her sentence.
Stephanie Rene Lopez is scheduled to leave prison Sept. 25, New Mexico Corrections Department officials confirmed. The date is subject to change, department spokeswoman Ashley Espinoza said.
Lopez was sentenced to 27 years in 2003 for negligent child abuse resulting in death and child abuse after her daughter, known as Baby Brianna, died.
Brianna’s father, Andy Walters, and uncle, Steven Lopez, were also convicted in the case, including one charge each of criminal sexual penetration. Walters and Steven Lopez are serving 63 years and 57 years, respectively.
Authorities say Brianna, who died in July 2002, had been sexually assaulted and suffered multiple injuries. They included two skull fractures and broken ribs, legs and an arm. Authorities also found more than a dozen human bite marks and bruising.
Public outcry over her death led to a change in state law that provides for a mandatory 30 years in prison for child abuse resulting in death.
Orlando-Antonio Carrillo-Jiménez, spokesman for the Baby Brianna Foundation and Baby Brianna Birthday Committee, told the Las Cruces Sun-News (http://bit.ly/2cIawbt) that both groups are saddened by the news of Lopez’s release.
“We know that the laws at the time were not what they are now and that laws cannot be retroactive,” Carrillo-Jiménez said in a statement. “We have no control over Ms. Lopez’s release.”
Child abuse prevention has been at the forefront recently after the brutal death last month of 10-year-old Victoria Martens. Albuquerque police found the girl’s dismembered body inside the apartment she shared with her mother.
Michelle Martens is accused of standing by while her boyfriend, Fabian Gonzales, drugged and raped her daughter. She told police Gonzales’ cousin, Jessica Kelley, stabbed Victoria before Gonzales choked her, according to a criminal complaint.
All three pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple charges, including child abuse resulting in death.
Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com