Jury Selection Begins for Trial of Felon Accused of Sexually Abusing Nieces

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

BANNING (CNS) – Jury selection got underway Wednesday for the trial of a convicted felon accused of sexually assaulting his developmentally disabled 18- year-old niece and inappropriately touching her younger sister.

Carlos Alberto Lopez, 51, of Desert Hot Springs is charged with a dozen felony counts, including rape of an adult unable to consent, incest, sodomy of an incompetent victim and lewd acts on a minor.

Pretrial motions were heard in the case Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Francisco Navarro summoned multiple panels of prospective jurors to the Banning Justice Center for screening as to their availability and qualifications.

Jury selection is expected to continue for the remainder of the week, with opening statements likely early next week.

Lopez is being held on $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

According to a trial brief filed by the District Attorney’s Office and an arrest warrant affidavit filed by Desert Hot Springs police, Lopez allegedly sexually assaulted his niece, identified only as Jane Doe, on multiple occasions between November 2016 and January 2017. The victim was “suffering from autism and receiving extended care relative to the condition from continuing education,” court papers stated.

“She lived with her mother, did not drive a car, have a bank account, work a job, or use public transportation,” documents said.

The alleged sexual encounters were uncovered on Jan. 4, 2017, when Jane Doe’s mother, identified in court documents only as “P.I.,” returned to her Desert Hot Springs residence from the grocery store and heard unusual sounds emanating from her eldest daughter’s bedroom, according to the prosecution’s brief.

The woman walked into the room to find Jane Doe half-naked and behaving evasively. The brief said that P.I. took the young woman to another part of the house and asked her specific questions regarding what had occurred, and the victim eventually admitted to “making out … with `C,”‘ whom P.I. immediately knew to be Lopez.

The livid woman ordered him out of her house and contacted police, according to prosecutors.

Detectives later interviewed Jane Doe and her 9-year-old sister about their encounters with Lopez.

“During the course of the forensic interview of Jane Doe, she reported having had sex with the defendant multiple times in her room and house, which she initiated,” according to the brief. “Jane Doe stated that these sexual encounters occurred on multiple occasions, sometimes with and without a condom, and did include anal sex at least one time.”

The young woman was confirmed to have the intellectual capacity of a 7- year-old, according to court papers.

When detectives interviewed Jane Doe’s younger sister, who is not autistic, she told them that the defendant had “touched her near her vagina … and twice more on her buttocks without any prompting from her,” the brief alleged.

The investigation continued until March 2018, when Lopez was arrested without incident in Los Angeles.

Court records show that he has prior convictions for domestic assault and making criminal threats.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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