For more than a year, locals of Placerville, California were kept in the dark about what happened to Roman Anthony Lopez, 11. Now cops say his father Jordan Piper, 36, and stepmother Lindsay Piper, 38, are responsible for the child’s death. Police said on Thursday that the autopsy showed no signs of “obvious trauma,” but Lopez was “severely malnourished and dehydrated.”
Charges against the couple are certainly evocative, especially the poisoning count against the stepmother. Authorities declined to explain the underlying behavior in detail, however. Police say Roman was abused, but the specific actions that led to his death remains publicly unclear. Police Chief Joseph Wren and District Attorney Vern Pierson said in a press conference on Thursday that they have to withhold information in the interest of protecting the ongoing investigation.
Police said that Lopez was reported missing January 11, 2020. He lived with the defendants and seven other children, then aged 1 to 17, authorities said. They had only recently moved to Placerville. Officers found the missing the boy in a storage bin in the basement the same day he was reported missing, authorities said. Wren said that the Pipers did not provide statements when they were arrested without incident on Wednesday.
Three of the seven other children were returned to their biological family, Wren said. The 17-year-old is now 18. Child protective services is involved in the cases of the other children.
Police also defended the comparatively lengthy time span between Lopez’s death and the arrests, citing the complex nature of the investigation.
“Much of this case involved the analysis of forensic evidence, to include obtaining search warrants to seize electronic devices, review data, and working with medical professionals as well as experts in the field of child abuse,” police said. “Adding to the complexity of this case was how often this family moved and the various agencies they had encountered. The combined investigative team contacted multiple agencies, in another state, including child protective services, medical providers, law enforcement agencies and courts.”
This matches a previous statement from cops.
“We would like a little bit of patience because it’s not like a TV drama where we can wrap it up in one hour,” police Commander Kim Nida said in Feb. 2020. “It does take a lot longer, and it is very normal in these types of cases to have this delay. And not giving out information is just us working on the case.”
The Pipers previously said they had “no idea what happened” to Roman.
“We have no idea what happened, where they found him, what the autopsy report said, if that’s even done, any suspects, nothing,” Jordan Piper told The Sacramento Bee. “We have nothing.”
Now they face child abuse and torture charges. Jordan Piper is accused individually of willfully failing to provide food and water, while Lindsay Piper is accused of poisoning the victim.
[Images via Placerville Police Department]
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