DONA ANA COUNTY, New Mexico (KTSM) - Wednesday, the mother of baby Brianna Lopez, the 5-month old who was brutally raped and beat to death in 2002 was released from prison.
Stephanie Lopez was released after serving nearly 13-years of her 27-year prison sentence. Lopez was convicted in 2003 in connection to the death of her daughter Brianna.
“This case sent shockwaves through the entire 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,” Secretary of Corrections Gregg Marcantel said. “Unfortunately, the law at the time allowed these violent offenders to have a much lighter sentence than what they deserved.”
Brianna was just a few months old when her father Andrew Walters, 59926, and uncle Steven Lopez, 59927, raped and abused her. Her mother took part in the abuse, biting the child from head to toe, and allowed the rapes to happen. The jury found Stephanie Lopez not guilty of intentional child abuse, but guilty of child abuse resulting in death. She received a 27-year sentence but under the law was eligible for day for day good time and credit time for time served in jail awaiting trial.
Walters received a total of 63 years in prison for child abuse resulting in death and rape. He is also eligible for good time as is Steven Lopez, who received a 57 year sentence in total for rape and neglect resulting in death.
Walters’s mother, Patricia Walters, and his brother, Robert Walters Junior, were convicted of failing to report child abuse and were sentenced to 60 days in jail.
Corrections officials had five independent auditors to review Lopez’s case file to ensure that she served her full sentence. The State does not have the authority to alter the court ordered sentence that permits her release.
Lopez will serve two years of parole in another state through the interstate compact agreement. Location of offenders in interstate compact is confidential. She will have to follow all rules and requirements of her parole as well as state and federal laws.
Baby Brianna’s Law, named after the victim, now sets a mandatory life sentence for child abuse resulting in death for a child under 13. An effort to expand the law to children from age 13 to 18 died in the state senate in the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions.