December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Medical expert testifies 2-year-old’s fatal injuries consistent with fall

Luis Lopez enters Elyria Municipal Court for his preliminary hearing. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Luis Lopez enters Elyria Municipal Court for his preliminary hearing. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — A medical expert hired by accused killer Luis Lopez’s defense attorney has concluded that his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter died from injuries caused when Lopez fell on the stairs and dropped the child.

Defense attorney Kenneth Ortner has said police have told him they believe Aaviana Payne was injured when Lopez threw the girl.

Lopez, 27, faces charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault, endangering children and domestic violence for Aaviana’s Sept. 11, 2011, death.

An autopsy determined that Aaviana died from blood on her brain caused by blunt head trauma.

Police have said that when she arrived at EMH Elyria Medical Center, Aaviana was bleeding from the mouth, which would have been consistent with a blow to the face.

But in his report, Dr. Werner Spitz wrote that his medical expertise led him to conclude that Lopez’s version of events was more credible.

He wrote that Lopez told investigators that he was baby-sitting Aaviana when he heard her calling for him from upstairs. Because she was still in a leg cast from a broken leg that her family has said was caused by a fall from a bed, Lopez has said he went upstairs to get the girl.

“Luis said on the way down the stairs, he slipped on a step and dropped the child while falling,” Spitz wrote. “Luis asked Aaviana if she was hurt and Aaviana indicated that she was OK. Luis took the child upstairs and put her to bed. Luis checked on Aaviana throughout the day but she was always asleep.”

When the girl’s mother, Margot Young, came home, she too checked on her daughter, but Aaviana was asleep, Spitz wrote. Around midnight, Lopez, Young and several other people decided to watch a movie and Lopez went to get the DVD player from Aaviana’s room.

When he entered the room, he “noticed a red powdery substance on Aaviana’s pillow,” Spitz wrote.

“Luis screamed and everyone went to Aaviana’s room,” Spitz wrote. “Someone called 911 and shortly thereafter Aaviana was pronounced dead at the hospital.”

Aside from the broken leg and head injuries, Aaviana also was recovering from grease burns she sustained while Lopez was holding her while cooking. Lopez also was burned in that incident, Spitz wrote.

Spitze wrote that Aaviana also had bruises on her back that were “consistent with falling down stairs and jarring inside the cast.”

Elyria police have questioned the truthfulness of Lopez’s account in part because he initially told investigators that the girl had been in bed all day and only later described the fall on the stairs.

Lopez remains in the Lorain County Jail.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.