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PARENTS MUST STAND TRIAL IN DEATH OF TODDLER.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

LANCASTER - A Lancaster couple was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on charges they murdered their toddler son, who was beaten, poisoned with an over-the-counter antihistamine, suffocated and, after he was dead, burned.

Anthony Bill Lopez, 36, and Sylvia Rolon, 41, are charged in the slaying of 22-month-old Isaac Lopez, whose partially charred body was found in April 2003 inside a duffel bag in his father's van parked at a San Gabriel Valley park.

After an Antelope Valley Superior Court hearing at which Judge Kenneth Andreen ruled Tuesday there was sufficient evidence against the couple to warrant a trial, Rolon's attorney said his client is innocent.

``The prosecution didn't present any evidence that she helped Mr. Lopez murder the little boy. There's no evidence that she helped him. She's not guilty,'' said attorney Edward Murphy, who was appointed to represent her by the court. ``She didn't have anything to do with the little boy's death.''

Lopez's attorney could not be reached for comment.

Lopez and Rolon are charged with murder with a special allegation of torture, which makes them eligible for the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Each has pleaded not guilty and is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

Authorities said the child was killed April 21, 2003, at Rolon's Lancaster condominium and remained there about a day before being taken away by Lopez in his van.

Lopez drove to Bassett in the east San Gabriel Valley to visit a friend. He was found with the body in the van, parked at Bassett Park, on April 23, 2003.

Subsequent investigation by detectives led to Rolon's arrest three days later.

Rolon's six other children, ranging then in age from 13 years to 4 months, were placed in protective custody. Her four oldest children were from other relationships, according to authorities.

The youngest three, including Isaac, were from a relationship with Lopez, who had been living in Des Moines, Iowa, but returned to Lancaster two or three weeks before Isaac was killed.

During the preliminary hearing on Monday, Los Angeles County deputy medical examiner Louis Pena testified Isaac died from the combined effects of an overdose of Sudafed, multiple injuries and asphyxiation.

He had fourth-degree burns on his face, upper body, arms and shoulders, lower legs and feet, Pena said.

Pena testified he believed the burns occurred after Isaac was dead.

Along with having bruises, Isaac had a torn frenulum, the piece of skin that connects the upper lip to the gum, and a right upper front tooth that was chipped diagonally, Pena said.

The frenulum could have been torn by a blow to the mouth or by a spoon or bottle forced into the mouth, Pena said.

Toxicology tests showed an extremely large amount of Sudafed in the boy's blood, levels ranging from 4.9 to 5.3 units, compared to the typical 0.5 to 0.77 units that would be found in adults, Pena said.

A purple discoloration of the toddler's lungs indicated suffocation or a lack of oxygen getting to his brain while he was still alive, Pena said.

Pena said there was no evidence the child choked on something.

A confidential county auditor-control report obtained by the Daily News faulted social workers for poor oversight, incompetence and numerous policy violations in returning the boy to his parents' care.

A county investigation was launched last year into the actions of the child social workers who had removed Isaac from his parents but then returned him. The investigation has not been completed, department officials said Monday.

Lopez and Rolon had at least a 10-year history with the agency, with Lopez being convicted of spousal abuse and physically abusing one of Rolon's sons.

However, a series of policy violations and mistakes - including a case worker simply failing to read the family's entire history of child abuse and neglect - led to Rolon's seven children being returned to her, an internal county audit concluded.

When the family relocated from the Covina area to Lancaster, the Covina-based social worker tried twice to transfer the case to a Department of Children and Family Services office in the Antelope Valley.

Both times, DCFS officials in Lancaster refused to take the case.

Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744

karen.maeshiro(at)dailynews.com

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Slain by parents?
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 23, 2004
Words:727
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