PLACERVILLE (CBS13) — "What kind of human tortures a child?" That was an emotional question asked aloud in an El Dorado courtroom Friday directed at 11-year-old Roman Lopez's stepmother, Lindsay Piper, who will spend 15 years to life in state prison for his death.
The sentencing hearing came more than two years after Lopez's body was found in the basement of his father, Jordan Piper, and stepmother's Placerville home. Lindsay Piper listened Friday as Lopez's paternal and maternal grandmothers, aunt, family, and Piper's own sons shared what was described as her history of "destroying lives."
Jordan and Lindsay Piper originally pleaded not guilty last November. Then, in May, Lindsay changed her not guilty plea to a no-contest plea, which meant she was sentenced on one charge of second-degree murder, eligible for parole after 15 years. She also faced counts of child abuse, poisoning and torture, but as part of her plea, those charges were dismissed.
Before the sentence was handed down Friday, Judge Vicki Ashworth told Piper she "didn't deserve to be [Roman's] stepmother, quite frankly" and "the court can think of no more evil person than that."
"It's truly appalling and horrific to know what this little boy went through at the hands of Piper," Judge Ashworth said.
'Evil Has To Be Held Accountable': Lopez's Family Called Out Lindsay Piper's Lies
In a prepared victim impact statement, Lopez's paternal grandmother Jackie Farah shared memories of the 11-year-old, who was her first-born grandchild. She said she spent his first seven birthdays with him, until he moved in with his father and stepmother, she said. It was at this point, she detailed, that Lindsay Piper "poisoned his mind and his body against me."
Farah said Piper "fooled us all" and manipulated family to believe that she "would protect him like a mother would." Now, in retrospect, Farah said she has her own guilt that she unknowingly "handed him over to the devil," not a caring stepmother.
As she spoke, Piper did not make eye contact or look in Farah's direction.
Farah addressed Lopez's maternal grandparents who were present at the sentencing via Zoom, his maternal grandmother, Denise Shipley, also read her own victim impact statement. Farah said her grandson meant everything to her.
"I am so sorry...for their entire family," Farah said. "Evil has to be held accountable."
Farah's statement was followed by Lopez's aunt, Casandra Lennox, his biological mother's sister, who spoke on her behalf. Lopez's mother, Rochelle Lopez, died in April 2021 in Wisconsin and is buried next to her son. She spoke to CBS13 fewer than 24 hours after she learned Roman was found dead.
"He didn't deserve this. I wish I could've been there. Maybe I could've stopped it," Rochelle told CBS13 in January 2020.
Her sister, Lennox, spoke via Zoom. She described her nephew as a "silly, kind, compassionate, and thoughtful 11-year-old boy whose life ended too soon."
She spoke to Piper directly and said it would be a luxury to be in a cell compared to what Piper forced Lopez to endure for nearly two years.
"What kind of human tortures a child?" Lennox asked the courtroom aloud.
Memories of Lopez continued through Shipley, who shared a victim impact statement via Zoom. She explained Rochelle kept a diary that she one day hoped to share with her son. Shipley read an excerpt written by Rochelle in February 2019.
"I miss you so much and think about you all the time," said Shipley, as she quoted an excerpt from the journal.
Shipley told the court, and Piper's sons who were present, that they, too, are responsible.
"You are all responsible," said Shipley.
'I Found Strength To Tell The Truth': Piper's Sons Share Firsthand Accounts Of Her Abuse
A freshman in high school with a driver's license, a life Piper will never get to see. In his own victim impact statement, Piper's son, Carson, wrote about the abuse he witnessed and endured. Overcome with emotion as he stood to address the court, his statement was read to the court by his family friend.
"I participated in this abuse. I never found the strength to tell the truth, maybe if I would have, [Roman] would be alive," Carson wrote in his statement.
Piper, unmoved, did not look in her son's direction, but instead, kept her eyes straight ahead from her seat in the jury box.
Carson's statement detailed the ways Piper told her children to lie about the abuse they experienced at home and that she went as far as to take them out of public school for, what she called, homeschooling, to avoid questions from teachers and Child Protective Services.
"Lindsay spent years telling lies," Carson wrote in his statement. "I hope you never get out."
When Caron's statement was finished being read, he walked back to his seat in the row in front of Farah, and the two embraced. Both had audible displays of emotion and tears. Brock, Carson's brother, paused before he began to read his own victim impact statement.
"Not just Roman, seven kids you abused," Brock said directly to Piper, who maintained her gaze straight ahead, never looking directly at her son.
He told her, "you sicken me," and laid out the abuse at the hands of his mother.
Roman was, at times, zip-tied with one hand in the air, and locked in a box or closet with little to no nutrition. The judge would later say that Lopez weighed only 42 pounds when he died — the same weight as he was when he was 5 years old.
"My boys beat her. Roman got justice in the best way that he could. That's not what he deserved, but she was finally beaten," said Marcus Garvin, Lindsay Piper's sons' biological father.
He spoke to the court about Piper who he said was "destroying lives since I've known you."
An "unsightly stain on the tapestry of motherhood" is how Garvin described Piper to the court. He added, "He beat you, Roman stopped you."
Garvin said he believed Piper never saw children in a way that was parental but instead, saw them as "possessions."
Justice Served: How the Community Remembers Roman Lopez
When Lopez was first reported missing in January 2020 in Placerville, the community rallied to find him. Neighbors told CBS13 at the time they spent the night door-knocking to find him. But the news no one wanted to hear came the next day when authorities announced he was dead.
"We hoped that he was going to be found safe," said Diane Simonian, a Placerville resident.
Then, the community learned who was arrested in his death: Jordan and Lindsay Piper. The pair faced multiple charges in February 2021 that included child abuse, poisoning and torture. The next October, murder charges followed.
"It was very horrific to think this could happen in our little town," said Simonian.
In November 2021, family members told CBS13 they know the kids who were living inside the house where Roman lived and shared new information with police. They say it was this information that likely led investigators to evidence that allowed them to piece together the horrors that Lopez endured.
"That's the problem when somebody dies, there's never really any justice. There's no way to make things right again," said Priscilla Cortez, who lives in Placerville.
At the time, police investigators told CBS13 the new evidence and ability to charge the Pipers with murder was "great news." Now, after Lindsay Piper's sentencing, community members and the assistant district attorney told CBS13 this is a piece of justice.
"All of us have felt the pain of losing Roman and have mourned him for a long time. Unfortunately, we can't bring him back. Nobody can, but we hope today is a step forward of healing for the entire community," said Lisette Suder, the El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney.
'Next Step' Toward Justice: Lopez's Father
Jordan Piper pleaded not guilty to the charges related to Lopez's abuse, torture, and death. A criminal complaint filed in June revealed federal agents found more than 400 nude photos of an underage girl on Piper's phone.
The document also claims Piper placed a GoPro camera behind a wall outlet in the bathroom of a rental home in Groveland. Federal agents say many of the videos found on the camera were of an underage girl bathing.
He has not been arraigned on these federal charges but will appear in El Dorado County at the end of July on the charges related to his son's death.
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