LOS ANGELES -- An Oxnard, Calif., grandmother will spend 180 days behind bars after she admitted to helping her daughter and her granddaughter's father conceal evidence of their 3-year-old girl's death.
Maria De Jesus Lopez, 45, was also sentenced to three years of formal probation. She will not be allowed to associate with any children without appropriate supervision during that time, according to the Ventura County district attorney's office.
Lopez pleaded guilty last month to a felony count of conspiracy to destroy and conceal evidence after the death of her granddaughter Kimberly Lopez.
Prosecutors said the woman lent the couple her car and gave them money to travel to Tijuana and destroy Kimberly's remains. For 15 months afterward, she helped them hide the death from authorities, prosecutors said.
The FBI began investigating the girl's disappearance in 2016 after she was last seen by a social worker the year before.
Lopez's daughter, Mayra Alejandra Chavez, 27, was convicted in December of second-degree murder, torture and assault leading to Kimberly's death. Omar Lopez, 34, was charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to child endangerment and perjury and testified against Chavez in a plea deal.
On the night Kimberly was killed, Chavez became angry when the girl soiled her diaper, according to her father's testimony. He said Chavez aggressively pulled down Kimberly's pants and yanked her legs out from under her, sending the girl toppling to the floor, where she struck her head. The girl later began having seizures and died in the middle of the night, Omar Lopez said.
John Barrick, a senior deputy district attorney, said Omar Lopez and Chavez drove to Maria De Jesus Lopez's home in the early morning after Kimberly died.
"Her reaction was to lend her car to them and give them $300," he said.
The woman also helped the couple find and pay for a rental home in Tijuana and purchased appliances and furniture for the home, the prosecutor said. While they were there, Chavez and Omar Lopez buried Kimberly in a blue plastic bag in a shallow grave, Barrick said.
Sponsored Video Stories from LifeZette
They lived in the rental home for a few weeks before returning to Oxnard, but after worrying the girl's body would be found, they returned to Tijuana on July 25, 2015 -- again with Maria De Jesus Lopez's car -- and exhumed her remains, Barrick said.
They broke apart her bones with pliers and tried to dissolve her remains in a bucket with bleach and water, which they later poured down a sink in the house they were renting, he said.
"They literally poured their daughter down the drain," Barrick said, adding that the couple scattered the girl's bones on various roads before returning to the United States.
In February 2016, Ventura County Children and Family Services received a call requesting a welfare check on Chavez's older daughter. Chavez and Lopez told officials that Kimberly was living with relatives in Mexico. They gave the same explanation to social workers months later but couldn't provide any documentation to back up the claim.
Social workers reported the girl missing to Oxnard police in September 2016. Authorities offered a $10,000 reward for information to help find Kimberly and searched for months before Chavez admitted to police that the girl had died, Barrick said.
Chavez is scheduled to be sentenced next week and faces a maximum of 47 years to life in prison.
(c)2019 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.