ROCKVILLE — A North Carolina man was convicted Friday of crushing the skulls of his estranged wife and her 11-year-old son, a crime that prosecutors said was motivated by his desire to steal the woman’s car and valuable items from her suburban Maryland home.
Curtis M. Lopez, 46, of Charlotte, faces the possibility of life without parole when he’s sentenced in April.
He had been scheduled for trial next week but chose to enter an Alford plea, a type of guilty plea in which a defendant maintains innocence but acknowledges the state has enough evidence for a conviction.
Lopez, an ex-convict who spent more than a decade in prison, wore a green jumpsuit and stared without apparent emotion at prosecutors as they showed a PowerPoint presentation detailing the evidence against him. Prosecutors showed autopsy photos of the skulls of Jane McQuain and her son William. They said William’s skull was shattered into 36 pieces.
Lopez killed Jane McQuain by striking her in the head with a 30-pound dumbbell and stabbing her with a kitchen knife inside her Germantown apartment in October 2011, prosecutors said. The next day, according to the state, he killed William with an aluminum baseball bat that he took from a storage facility belonging to Jane McQuain.
“This man should never walk the streets again a free man,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said after the hearing. “He deserves to die in jail.”
McCarthy said defense attorneys planned to request a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Lopez’s public defenders declined to comment after the hearing.
William McQuain was a 6th-grade student who friends say loved sports, animals and video games. Photos on his mother’s Facebook page showed him posing in recreation-league baseball and football uniforms, a broad smile on his face. His body was found in a wooded area of Clarksburg after a search that spanned about 30,000 acres and multiple days.
Jane McQuain, 51, worked as an administrative assistant at an accounting firm and was devoted to her son, Deputy State’s Attorney John Maloney said in court. She married Lopez while he was serving a 13-year prison term in Pennsylvania for attempted murder. The couple never lived together while married and Lopez was not the boy’s biological father. Lopez was paroled in 2000.
‘It was greed’
According to evidence presented in court, Lopez told his girlfriend in Charlotte in September 2011 that he was going to Pennsylvania and planned to return with a new car. A few months earlier, prosecutors said, McQuain had inherited $80,000 from an uncle and used some of the money to buy a new Honda CRV and a 52-inch television, prosecutors said. Lopez knew about the inheritance, they said.
While he was staying with McQuain and her son, Lopez sent cellphone pictures of the car to his girlfriend, prosecutors said. He also made inquiries with friends about selling the television, according to evidence.
He killed Jane McQuain in her apartment on a night when William was sleeping at a friend’s house, prosecutors said, hiding the dumbbell in William’s bedroom and the knife between the cushions of a sofa.
The next day, Lopez picked up William at his friend’s house. They were captured on surveillance video making two visits to a storage facility. The first time, prosecutors said, Lopez retrieved several items belonging to Jane McQuain and he returned about 2 hours later to retrieve the bat.
William was last seen on video at a gas station in Clarksburg. His body was ultimately found a few hundred yards away in some woods off the side of the road. The bat was nearby. McCarthy said Lopez’s only motivation to kill the boy was to cover his tracks.
“I think the kid just innocently and blindly did what the guy asked him to do,” McCarthy said.
Lopez was arrested at a motel in the Charlotte area the day after Jane McQuain’s body was found. The car was at the scene and Jane McQuain’s ATM card, which Lopez had used, was found in the tank of the toilet in the room, prosecutors said. He also took the television, an antique lamp from Tiffany and Co. and a video-game console, according to evidence.
Lopez has not explained his actions or shown any remorse, according to prosecutors, who said they were unaware of any other reason for him to kill his estranged wife.
“Do we think the motive was financial? Absolutely,” McCarthy said. “It’s about money. It’s about things. It’s about property. It was greed.”