Baby Brianna’s mom on parole in Plainview
A growing number of Plainview residents want one of the community’s newest residents, Stephanie Rene Lopez, to know that she’s not welcome.
Lopez was living in Las Cruces, New Mexico, when convicted in the 2002 death of her 5 ½ month old daughter, Brianna Lopez. In 2003, she was found guilty of negligent child abuse resulting in death and child abuse and sentenced to spend the next 27 years in prison. She was released Wednesday from a prison in Grants, New Mexico, after serving about 13 years. The next day, she reported to her parole officer in Plainview, after being paroled her through the interstate compact that includes all 50 states and the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.
“We’re just in shock that New Mexico would send her here,” said Virginia Castro. “This is a very close, tight community, and she’s not welcome.”
Castro joined with a group of more than a dozen residents Friday who voiced their opposition to having Lopez in Plainview to a news team from KCBD-TV in Lubbock. They first heard that Lopez was coming to Plainview through Facebook and Instagram, and quickly began organizing.
“It’s just crazy,” Castro said. “She needs to go. She needs to leave, that monster. We want her to know that we know she’s here, and we don’t like it.”
Casie Augustine, a mother of four between ages of 8 and 4, said the group’s aim is not to promote violence against Lopez. Rather, it’s to serve as a voice for Baby Brianna. “We won’t let this baby be forgotten. Whether 10 or 100, Plainview has become her family and we are looking out for her. We are now Brianna’s mothers and fathers, her brothers and sisters, her grandmothers and grandfathers, and aunts and uncles.”
Augustine has organized a Balloons for Brianna vigil at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at Kidsville Park. They plan to release pink and white helium-filled balloons and hold a candlelight vigil and walk for the child.
Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Corrections in Huntsville, confirmed Friday that Lopez reported to her parole officer in Plainview about noon Thursday and will be staying at a private residence in Plainview, possibly with family members.
Clark said Lopez will be under close supervision and be required to wear a GPS device around her ankle. She is forbidden to have contact with co-defendants and other felons, and must pay fees associated with her parole. She will be subject to random homes visits and drug testing, and must either find employment or seek educational opportunities.
According to published accounts, Brianna Lopez – Baby Brianna – was born Feb. 14, 2002, and died just over five months later as a result of horrific abuse inflicted by her father, Andy Walters, and uncle, Steven Lopez. Those injuries included two skull fractures, broken ribs, broken legs, a broken arm, 15 human bite marks and numerous bruises all across her body. She also was sexually abused.
Steven Lopez and Andy Walters were convicted in 2003 on several felony charges, including intentional child abuse resulting in death and first-degree criminal sexual penetration. Both remain behind bars after drawing sentences of more than 50 years.
According to trial testimony, Stephanie Lopez was aware of the ongoing abuse but did nothing to intervene. She delayed calling for an ambulance for several hours following the final episode of abuse that took Baby Brianna’s life.
New Mexico’s Secretary of Corrections Gregg Marcantel, in a statement issued following Stephanie Lopez’ release, noted, “The case sent shock waves through the community. Baby Brianna was horrifically tortured, raped and murdered, and we all want the monsters who took part in this brutal crime to face justice. Unfortunately, the law at the time allowed these violent offenders to have a much lighter sentence than what they deserved.”
As a result of the death of Brianna Lopez, the state of New Mexico in 2005 adopted the Baby Brianna Bill, which carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 30 years for intentional child abuse, up from a maximum sentence of 18 years when Brianna died.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was the Doña Ana County district attorney who prosecuted the Baby Brianna case. Since taking office, she has proposed reinstated the death penalty to include those charged with intentional child abuse resulting in death.