ROCKVILLE, Md. – 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, a defense lawyer said in court Tuesday.
Stefanie McCardle, a state public defender representing Curtis M. Lopez, revealed the decision during a pretrial hearing aimed at resolving disputes over evidence and witness testimony.
Lopez, an ex-convict who spent more than a decade in prison, is charged with killing Jane McQuain inside her Germantown apartment last October and fatally beating her son, William, with a baseball bat. William's body was found in a wooded area miles from the apartment days after the police located his mother's body.
Lopez was arrested at a motel in the Charlotte, N.C.-area the day after Jane McQuain's body was found. Police said he had driven McQuain's car to North Carolina with plans to give it to a girlfriend there.
Defense lawyers urged a judge Tuesday to suppress any evidence seized from the car or the motel room, where, for instance, a debit card in McQuain's name was found in a toilet. Public defender Alan Drew argued that the search warrants should be considered inadmissible because there was no probable cause at the time to identify Lopez as a suspect.
"There's no indication that Mr. Lopez was involved in the crime," Drew said. "There's absolutely nothing that would support a finding of probable cause."
But Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Mary Beth McCormick flatly dismissed that claim in ruling against Lopez.
"You have a dead lady ... and her card is found in the (motel room) where the defendant's residing?" she said.
Prosecutors say they have witness statements indicating that McQuain had told people that she was set to inherit a sum of money, suggesting that as a possible motive for Lopez's reappearance in her life. But McArdle said the defense was 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 said there was no reason to prevent the doctor from testifying.