ROCKVILLE — A man convicted of killing his estranged wife and fatally beating her 11-year-old son with a baseball bat, then fleeing with the woman’s car to North Carolina, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Monday.
Prosecutors called Curtis Lopez a career criminal and an unrepentant master manipulator motivated by pure financial greed, and a judge described his crimes as “monstrous” in ordering him to spend the rest of his life behind bars — a sentence cheered in the courtroom by the victims’ relatives and friends.
Lopez in 2011 killed Jane McQuain, a woman he met as a teenager and then wed while in prison, by striking her in the head with a 30-pound dumbbell and stabbing her with a butcher’s knife as she slept. Later that morning, he picked up her son William from a friend’s house, drove him into the woods and beat him to death with a metal baseball bat. The boy’s body was found after a massive police manhunt. Though Lopez’s lawyers say he traveled to her Germantown apartment in suburban Washington with the hope of reuniting, prosecutors argued that he came up from North Carolina with plans to kill her and rob her of a new car and other possessions.
“He has murder in his heart, and murder in his DNA,” Deputy Montgomery County State’s Attorney John Maloney told the judge in asking for two sentences of life without parole.
Lopez, 47, reached for tissues as McQuain’s brother presented a slideshow presentation of his sister and nephew through the years. He then dabbed his eyes as his lawyer read a letter McQuain once sent Lopez professing her love for him. Before being sentenced, he turned to face McQuain’s family and told them “I am sorry for your loss,” though the statement was met with snickers from friends and relatives who took turns throughout the hearing tearfully describing McQuain as a devoted mother and William as a happy child who loved sports, art projects and his cats.
“He made more accomplishments in his 11 years on this earth than you have in your entire life,” McQuain’s cousin, Suzanne McQuain Hicks, told Lopez angrily as she held up William’s artwork in his direction.
Lopez, who was most recently living in Charlotte, N.C., entered an Alford plea to the murders in January, meaning he did not admit guilt but acknowledged that there was enough evidence for a conviction. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for Lopez, an ex-convict who spent more than a decade in prison in Pennsylvania for attempted murder and was involved in a riot while incarcerated, choosing instead to recommend a sentence of life without parole. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Mary Beth McCormick sentenced him to two consecutive life sentences without parole, plus 30 years for kidnapping.
Though Maryland lawmakers recently abolished the death penalty, Lopez would have made “a prime candidate for such a horrific crime,” Maloney said. The judge indicated that she agreed with that assessment.
Though the couple never lived together and had grown estranged, prosecutors say Lopez had recently re-emerged in McQuain’s life, spending two weeks in September 2011 with her and her son.
He traveled from North Carolina with the dumbbells he eventually used to kill McQuain, and once at her home, began arranging to sell off their TV and other personal items. Neighbors reported seeing him load large boxes from McQuain’s apartment into her car. He took pictures of her new Honda and sent the images to his girlfriend, promising to deliver the vehicle to her when he returned to Charlotte — which he did after killing both victims, authorities say.
“This is a guy who can kill and go back and have a beautiful reunion with blood on his clothes and think nothing of it,” Maloney said.
Sometime in the early morning hours of Oct. 1, 2011, as William spent the night at a friend’s, Lopez fatally struck McQuain with 30-pound dumbbells as she slept and stabbed her with a butcher knife through three comforters, said another prosecutor, Danielle Sartwell.
Hours later, he picked up William from a friend’s house under the guise of taking the boy to his recreation football game. Instead, he drove him around for hours — including to a storage facility — looking for a place to kill the child and leave his body, prosecutors said. He took him into the woods and struck him in the head with an aluminum bat, shattering his skull into many pieces.
“William knew that Cutis Lopez was not his father, but he still trusted and loved him and called him Dad,” Sartwell said.
From there, he drove onto North Carolina, still wearing pants stained with blood and William’s DNA and sending text messages from Jane McQuain’s cellphone that pretended to be from her.
Jane McQuain’s friends grew concerned after not hearing from her for days.
Police found her dead in her apartment about two weeks after she was killed. Lopez was swiftly identified as the suspect and arrested in Charlotte. Police found William’s body in the woods about a week after that.
Lopez’s defense lawyers asked that he be given an opportunity for parole because his plea averted what would have been a long and emotionally-wrenching trial. Stefanie McArdle, a state public defender, read aloud a letter McQuain once sent Lopez describing him as her “true love.”
“This is a tragic case, but this is a very long, complicated relationship,” she said.