Woman found guilty of violent home invasion
By Jim Newton firstname.lastname@example.org | @JimNewton5 October 24, 2013 1:20PM
Updated: November 26, 2013 6:22AM
After deliberating about two hours Thursday afternoon, a Lake County jury found former Gurnee resident Sandra Lopez guilty on all of the counts she was charged with in connection with a brutal 1999 home invasion in Park City.
The former fugitive, who fled the country for El Salvador after being charged, was found guilty of three counts of home invasion and two counts of armed robbery. One of the counts of home invasion specified a knife injury to one of the victims. The other two counts related to the threat of force used against both victims.
“We are grateful to have been a part of bringing justice to these victims. They had to wait a long time,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Newman said after the verdict.
Judge John Phillips ordered Lopez held without bond until her sentencing Nov. 26. She cried quietly as the jury was polled to confirm the guilty verdicts.
In a separate 1995 case, Lopez had beaten murder charges in the death of her husband in his Highwood restaurant.
Earlier Thursday, Oct. 24, as the trial concluded with closing arguments, both prosecutors and the defense concurred that after 14 years, it was time to resolve whether Lopez participated in the violent 1999 incident.
Assistant State’s attorneys Newman and Jason Humke said the witnesses and evidence they brought to the trial proved Lopez, 43, planned and helped carry out the armed robbery of two women in a Park City home, stabbing one in the hand and using duct tape to bind them before making off with jewelry.
“Fourteen years ago, (the two victims) were terrorized and traumatized by Sandra Lopez. For 14 years they’ve been waiting for justice. Today we are here to get that justice,” Humke said. “Today Sandra Lopez will have her day.”
Both victims of the attack testified in the trial, including the woman who was cut on the hand, who identified Lopez in court as the person responsible. But the prosecution’s star witness was Lopez’s niece, Lizeth Dominguez, who pleaded guilty to the robbery in 1999. On the stand, she described how the robbery occurred and stated that it was Lopez who orchestrated the crime.
Defense Attorney Chris Lombardo countered that Dominguez made a deal with prosecutors to avoid prison by testifying against Lopez, and stressed that none of the DNA found on the duct tape used to bind the women matched Lopez.
Lombardo told the jury that considering the DNA results and questions about the credibility of the witnesses, there was “enough reasonable doubt to fill a grocery cart.”
Lopez was considered a fugitive from 1999, when she left the country while out on bail, until she was arrested in March for retail theft in Bloomington, Illinois, where she allegedly gave officers a falsified name and birth date.
She was later taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Chicago.
She faces up to 30 years on the home invasion and armed robbery charges and has been held in Lake County Jail on a $1 million bond since her capture.
Lopez was charged with murder in 1995 for the stabbing death of her former husband, Isaac, 44, who was killed Sept. 15 of that year in his Highwood restaurant, Mexico Lindo.
She was acquitted of those charges after she and her attorney claimed it was a case of self-defense.
Her defense attorney in that case, James Borrasso, was subsequently disbarred for allegedly helping her leave the country after she was charged in the home invasion. He joined her in El Salvador, where the couple married and had children.