A state appeals court panel has upheld a man’s conviction for the August 2010 stabbing deaths of his then-girlfriend’s grandparents, who were attacked in their bedroom in Rosemead.
In a ruling released Monday, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge erred in denying the defense’s motion to suppress Roldolfo Lopez’s statement to police and in responding to questions from the jury during deliberations.
Lopez — who was 21 at the time of the crime — was convicted in December 2016 of two counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Jack Bezner, 71, and his 63-year-old wife, Susan, who were found dead on Aug. 9, 2010.
A downtown Los Angeles jury also found true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders. Lopez was sentenced in June 2017 to two consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole.
Lopez’s then-girlfriend, Sophia Cristo, was 14 at the time of the crime. She was initially prosecuted as an adult and convicted in March 2015 of first-degree murder, but a ballot measure approved by California voters resulted in her case being sent to a juvenile court judge to determine if her case should be handled there.
She was sentenced in July 2018 to a juvenile facility until she’s 25, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Deputy District Attorney Scott McPheron told jurors during Lopez’s trial that the “heinous, gruesome” killings were premeditated.
“It was a planned act in a cowardly way while these people slept,” the prosecutor said.
Cristo, who has been in custody since her August 2010 arrest, lived at the home with her grandparents and her father.
Cristo’s grandfather was stabbed 47 times, and her grandmother suffered 112 knife wounds, McPheron said.
“(The) defendant was able to take Jack down with 47,” the prosecutor said, telling jurors that Cristo’s grandmother tried to fight back and that Lopez acknowledged helping Cristo with her grandmother. “They covered up the bodies as if they were sleeping to delay discovery.”
The teen’s grandfather had become aware about a week earlier that his checks were being forged and confronted her, the deputy district attorney said.
Lopez and Cristo were stopped a few days later in El Paso, Texas.
Lopez’s trial attorney, Simon Aval, urged jurors to acquit his client of the killings, arguing that his client’s statement to detectives about the crime was “not truthful.”
“Just because he said something doesn’t make it true,” Aval told jurors. “I would submit to you that my client did not commit this crime.”
He said there was “no physical evidence” linking Lopez to the bedroom or the couple’s home.
The couple was found dead under a blanket in their bed by one of their sons after family members became concerned that a relative had not heard from them on her birthday.
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