Father charged for Rancho Bernardo fire that killed his children

Posted at 1:13 PM, Feb 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 19:35:00-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The father accused of causing a condo fire in Rancho Bernardo that killed his two children appeared in court Tuesday afternoon for a preliminary hearing.

Henry Lopez is accused of passing out drunk with a lit cigarette, setting his condo on fire last October.

His children, 10-year-old Cristos and 7-year-old Isabella, were in the home at the time and suffered smoke inhalation. Both children died as a result of their injuries.

Lopez was also burned in the fire and hospitalized for some time.

One witness told the court Tuesday he heard a female screaming at the scene, but the screaming stopped.

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Henry Lopez' ex-wife Nikia Lopez testified the two were in the midst of a divorce. They shared joint custody of their children.  Lopez told the judge her former husband was an abusive alcoholic.

She claims she had warned him previously not to smoke in the house around the children.

"He drank a lot. My goal was to keep it from the kids.  I would wake up in the middle of the night and throw away the bottles in the trash. I would pull him upstairs before the kids woke in the morning... sometimes I would have to clean up his throw up."  

He’s not in custody because his defense attorney says he needs to be out to receive medical treatment for the burns he sustained during the fire.

Prosecutors believe the fire started in his bed and ultimately spread to the rest of the home.  Investigators found discarded smoking materials and alcohol near the start of the fire.

If there’s enough evidence against Lopez and the case goes to trial, he faces up to 14 years in prison for several felony counts including involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.

Lopez is not charged with intentionally starting the fire.