Crime

Convicted baby killer could go back to prison for life after new sex crime allegation

Jose Lopez appeared in Franklin County Superior Court in Pasco for arraignment on Tuesday.
Jose Lopez appeared in Franklin County Superior Court in Pasco for arraignment on Tuesday. Tri-City Herald

A convicted killer fresh out of prison would return for the rest of his life if found guilty of new allegations he sexually assaulted a young girl.

Jose R. Lopez, 51, pleaded innocent Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court to first-degree child molestation. His trial is set for July 15.

The Kennewick man is subject to Washington’s persistent offender law, which requires life without the possibility of release.

Lopez was released from the state Department of Corrections in January after serving a 28-year sentence for a 1991 murder.

Pasco police were called to a home May 13, one day after a girl said Lopez “had touched her private area,” court documents said.

The alleged molestation was captured on video and shows Lopez touching the girl while she was on his lap, documents said.

Lopez was arrested later that day and remains in the Franklin County jail on $1 million bail.

He was 24 when a Franklin County jury took just over five hours to convict him of first-degree murder and homicide by abuse.

Lopez killed Leonel R. Lopez, the 1-month-old child of his girlfriend. The baby’s skull was broken.

Lopez previously said he might harm the newborn, and told a neighbor he wanted to kill the baby after learning the child was not his.

At the time, he had a prior conviction for firing a shotgun several times at a car that was following his car near the Franklin County Courthouse.

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.
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