Tucson man given 1.5 years in abuse of impaired girlfriend

2012-11-15T12:02:00Z 2012-11-16T08:02:16Z Tucson man given 1.5 years in abuse of impaired girlfriendKim Smith, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A Tucson man who allowed his stroke-impaired girlfriend to wallow in her own waste for weeks was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison Thursday.

Christopher Joseph Lopez, 48, pleaded guilty to vulnerable adult abuse/domestic violence last month and was facing a mandatory prison term of between six months and 2 1/2 years.

Lopez was originally indicted in June on two counts of vulnerable adult abuse.

In early February a neighbor found a woman on the floor covered in feces and urine, and the neglected woman was taken to University of Arizona Medical Center. She also had bedsores, said Assistant Arizona Attorney General Jesse Delaney. The woman had been incapacitated by a stroke about 10 years prior, and Lopez, her boyfriend, was being paid by the state to care for her.

Although the victim told authorities she'd been on the floor about three weeks, she declined to cooperate with investigators and went home with Lopez, Delaney said.

On May 30, neighbors called 911 again after hearing a dispute. Authorities again found the woman in her own waste.

Defense attorney Jason Rosell asked for a mitigated sentence, saying Lopez did the best he could to take care of the victim, but wasn’t able to. She didn’t want to leave her home and Lopez was reluctant to go against her wishes, Rosell said.

Lopez took care of the woman for nearly five years before learning the state would pay him to do so, Rosell said.

Delaney said the fact the woman did not want Lopez prosecuted and covered for him doesn’t erase the fact she suffered for weeks at home and months in the hospital.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Nichols said a mitigated sentence would be inappropriate because of Lopez’s past criminal history.

The woman is now in an assisted living facility, Delaney said.

Delaney told Nichols last month she believes the woman's hospital bills, which were picked up by AHCCCS, were between $225,000 and $250,000.

Lopez will be expected to reimburse the state for her medical bills, but the exact amount of restitution will be determined at a later date.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or kimsmith@azstarnet.com. On Twitter: @KimSmithStar

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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