A man accused of drinking himself to sleep and passing out with a lit cigarette, causing a fire in Rancho Bernardo that killed his two children, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of child endangerment causing death, reckless fire starting causing great bodily injury and involuntary manslaughter.
Henry Lopez, who was seriously injured in the Oct. 28 blaze, was charged on Wednesday and surrendered to authorities Thursday morning.
He faces 14 years in state prison if convicted.
Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterley asked for Lopez to be held on $1 million bail, but Superior Court Judge Laura Halgren allowed the defendant to remain free on supervised release. He will be required to wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet while he’s out of custody.
Witnesses spotted flames coming from the second-story of a condominium on Bernardo Terrace about 3:20 a.m. and dialed 911.
Firefighters arrived within minutes and found 7-year-old Isabella Lopez and 10-year-old Cristos Lopez upstairs with their father. Both children died later at a hospital.
Lopez was legally separated from his wife but the estranged couple owned the home together.
According to court documents, Lopez threatened to burn the residence down during a conversation about selling the condo and finalizing their divorce.
He will be back in court Jan. 18 for a readiness conference and Feb. 27 for a preliminary hearing.
–City News Service
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