ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — Maryland prosecutors have agreed not to seek the death penalty against a man charged with killing his estranged wife and her 11-year-old son, according to a defense lawyer and the state's attorney's office.
Stefanie McArdle of the state public defender's office referenced the decision during a pretrial hearing Tuesday aimed at resolving disputes over evidence and witness testimony in the case against Curtis M. Lopez. A spokesman for the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office confirmed the decision later in the day.
Lopez, an ex-convict who spent more than a decade in prison, is charged with killing Jane McQuain, 51, inside her Germantown apartment last October and fatally beating her son, William, with a baseball bat. William's remains were found in a wooded area in Clarksburg about a week after the police discovered the body of his mother, who authorities say was stabbed and suffered blunt force trauma.
Lopez, 46, was arrested at a motel in the Charlotte, N.C.-area the day after Jane McQuain's body was found. Police said he stole McQuain's car, a Honda CRV, and drove it to North Carolina after killing her and her son with plans to give the vehicle to a girlfriend there.
Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said soon after Lopez's arrest that prosecutors would consider pursuing the death penalty against him because of the "magnitude of the crime," though he also said he wasn't immediately sure whether the crime would be eligible for that punishment because of Maryland's multiple requirements.
With the death penalty off the table, Lopez would face a maximum sentence of life without parole if convicted of the murders, and online court records show prosecutors filed a notice last month showing their intent to seek that sentence.
The trial is currently set for January, records show.
Lopez, wearing glasses and a green jail jumpsuit, sat silently throughout the daylong hearing, occasionally whispering to his lawyers.
At Tuesday's hearing, defense lawyers urged a judge to suppress any evidence that police seized from McQuain's car or from the motel room where Lopez was staying. Among the items was a debit card in McQuain's name that was found in a motel room toilet. Public defender Alan Drew argued that the search warrants should be considered inadmissible because there was no probable cause to identify Lopez as a suspect.
But Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Mary Beth McCormick flatly dismissed that claim in ruling against Lopez's lawyers.
"You have a dead lady ... and her card is found in the (motel room) where the defendant's residing?" she said.
Defense lawyers also said they expect prosecutors to present money as a reason why Lopez had reappeared in McQuain's life despite their estrangement and as a possible motive for her murder. Prosecutors say they have witness statements indicating that McQuain told people that she was set to inherit a sum of money. But McArdle said her preparations were hamstrung because prosecutors haven't provided the names of friends or acquaintances with whom McQuain had spoken.
"We want to know who those people are," McArdle said.
The judge urged the two sides to work out the matter.
Defense lawyers also argued to block the testimony of a medical expert who examined William McQuain's fractured skull. The defense said their own experts didn't have an opportunity to perform their own examination, which can shed light on the order and number of blows, but McCormick rejected the request to prevent the expert from testifying.