A Mission Viejo man sexually abused two young girls he is related to several years apart, finally getting caught when a teacher asked his son to talk to him while doing school work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.
Jose Andres Lopez, 70, is facing 18 felony sexual assault charges dating as far back as 1991 through 2020. Lopez is a retired Orange County pastor, but jurors won’t hear that fact during the trial because it was not deemed relevant to the allegations.
Defense attorney Marlin Stapleton Jr. declined to make an opening statement to jurors on Thursday.
On Aug. 21, 2020, one of the alleged victims was finishing up school work remotely at the defendant’s home when he called her up to his room, she testified.
“I went upstairs and then he pulled down my shorts I was wearing that day,” she testified. “That’s when he started (sexually assaulting her).”
Lopez had lubricant and condoms next to his bed, she testified.
“He locked the door like he always would,” she testified. “He would usually put a towel under it, but I don’t think he did that day.”
The victim was 13 at the time, but the abuse started when she was 3, Deputy District Attorney Tara Meath said.
The victim’s brother, who is about a year younger, was also in the house and when he was finishing his remote classes the teacher asked to speak to the defendant to let him know they had worked out some technical issues in connecting virtually, Meath said. The siblings would regularly stay overnights with Lopez on FriSdays through Saturdays and major holidays, Meath said.
The brother “ran up the stairs, but the door was locked so he knocked,” Meath said.
“My teacher wants to talk to you,” the boy said.
The defendant said, “Slide the phone under the door,” Meath said.
The boy said he heard his sister in the room say something to the effect, “Are you done? Is it in?” Meath said.
Then the boy heard “noise he describes as a rhythm that sounded like having sex,” Meath said. “He felt very uncomfortable.”
Later, the victim called her brother upstairs to her room and she was crying as she told him what was happening, Meath said. The next day the brother told his mother and the tearful victim confirmed it, the prosecutor said.
When investigators spoke with the girl, she said, “He started touching me since I was 3 years old,” according to Meath.
The girl said the alleged abuse “progressed in stages,” Meath said.
“This basically took place every time he had an opportunity,” Meath said. “It occurred every Friday.”
When deputies began executing a search warrant, the victim told them where they could find a sex toy in his room and the color of the towel it was wrapped in, Meath said.
“It was exactly where she said it was,” Meath said.
During the investigation, deputies “stumbled on a police report” out of Massachusetts from a 12-year-old who said the defendant had molested her for years, Meath said.
Lopez is also related to that alleged victim, who moved out of state with her mother when she was 7, Meath said. She would return to spend summers with Lopez for years, and she said the abuse began when she was 5, Meath said. The accuser is about 35 to 36 years old now, she said.
Lopez volunteered as a pastor at Pacific Hills Calvary Chapel in Aliso Viejo between 2003 and 2005, according to sheriff’s officials. He also volunteered at Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo between 2012 and 2019, according to sheriff’s officials.