December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria man pleads in death of girlfriend’s 2-year-old

Luis Lopez of Elyria talks with his attorney, Ken Ortner, after pleading guilty and receiving his sentence Tuesday in the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Luis Lopez of Elyria talks with his attorney, Ken Ortner, after pleading guilty and receiving his sentence Tuesday in the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — An Elyria man whose girlfriend’s 2-year-daughter died after being injured while he was babysitting her pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of involuntary manslaughter, endangering children and domestic violence.

Prosecutors dropped murder and felonious assault charges against 27-year-old Luis Lopez as part of the plea agreement, which will see Lopez sentenced to eight years in prison during a hearing next week.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo said prosecutors agreed to the reduced charges because reports prepared on the Sept. 11, 2011, death of Aaviana Payne indicated that the child was injured by striking her head on the stairs. An autopsy determined that blunt head trauma caused bleeding on the brain that killed Aaviana.

He said Lopez failed to seek medical attention for the girl, which allowed her injuries to grow worse.

“It’s not based on knowingly or purposefully harming the child,” Cillo said of the charges in the plea agreement. “It was based upon what happened afterward.”

Lopez told investigators that he was carrying Aaviana, who had a broken leg caused by an earlier fall from a bed, down the stairs when he slipped and dropped the child, according to a defense expert’s report.

The expert, Dr. Werner Spitz, wrote in his report that Lopez then asked Aaviana if she was hurt and the girl replied that she was OK. He took her upstairs, put her to bed and checked on her throughout the day, but she was always sleeping.

After Aaviana’s mother, Margot Young, returned home, she also checked on her daughter, who was still asleep. Lopez later went to get a DVD from Aaviana’s room and saw “a red powdery substance on Aaviana’s pillow,” Spitz wrote.

An ambulance was called, but Aaviana ultimately died from her injuries.

Defense attorney Kenneth Ortner said after Tuesday’s hearing that although his client would have preferred a short sentence, he was taking responsibility for his actions.

“It’s a difficult case,” Ortner said. “In my opinion it was a clear-cut accident, but on the other hand, an innocent child died and there are consequences for that.”

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