THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL DETAILS ABOUT THE HEARING.
LAKEPORT, Calif. – On Tuesday afternoon a Clearlake Oaks man was sentenced to 311 years in prison for the June 2011 shooting that killed a 4-year-old Clearlake boy and wounded five others.
Yolo County Judge Doris Shockley sentenced 24-year-old Orlando Lopez Jr. to the time for the June 18, 2011, shooting that killed four-year-old Skyler Rapp; wounded his mother, Desiree Kirby; her boyfriend, Ross Sparks; his brother, Andrew Sparks; Ian Griffith; and Joey Armijo.
After reading out the sentences for the various charges, Shockley spoke directly to Lopez.
“I’ve been doing this work for a very long time,” she said, telling Lopez that the shooting was one of “the most callous and vicious and nonsensical” crime she’d dealt with in her career.
After four hours of deliberation a jury convicted Lopez on June 15 of first-degree murder, five charges of attempted murder, two counts of mayhem, six counts of assault with a firearm, a count of discharge of a firearm at an inhabited dwelling, and the findings that numerous special allegations about use of a firearm and other charges were true.
Lopez’s co-defendant in the case, Paul William Braden, 22, was convicted of the same charges the following week. He will be sentenced by Shockley at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9.
Before the hearing was over, defense attorney Stephen Carter submitted filings to appeal the conviction and sentence.
District Attorney Don Anderson, who prosecuted the case, had alleged that the men had shot into a crowd of people at Kirby’s and Sparks’ home late that night as the result of tensions that had arisen between the groups over a fight earlier in the month at an adult school graduation.
Both Lopez and Braden had been tried together for the shooting, considered the worst incident of its kind in the city of Clearlake's history.
Their trial – involving two juries – had begun in January and lasted until June.
Shelita Kirby, Desiree Kirby's grandmother, attempted to give a victim impact statement but became emotional and couldn't speak.
The Victim-Witness advocate with her read the statement, in which she described the agony she and her family had experienced following the shooting of her granddaughter and death of Skyler, her first great-grandchild.
“He was a very much loved little boy,” she said of Skyler.
She called Lopez and Braden “evil nothings, not worth a thing,” asking, “How can you just kill a baby?”
Lopez, she said, was “about to find out what hell is,” adding, “You are done. You are nothing, nothing, nothing.”
Allegations of an unjust system
Lopez has maintained his innocence, and continued to do so on Tuesday.
At his request, during the 40-minute sentencing hearing defense attorney Stephen Carter read to the court a letter Lopez had written to the Probation Department in which he protested his conviction, which he said resulted from an unfair trial and biased, prejudiced jurors.
Lopez wrote that the prosecution made false statements about him, and the jury did not weigh all the evidence.
In his letter he said he felt entitled to have a trial separate from Braden's, alleging that the trials were joined to save the county money.
“I now have lost my family, including three children, due to an unjust court system,” said Lopez.
His letter stated that he should have received a change of venue, and that he had never been prone to violence.
As a father of three young children – ages 4, 6 and 8 – Lopez sent his condolences to the victims. “No one deserves to suffer the way they did.”
At the end of his comments, supporters of his in the gallery began to clap. Shockley issued a swift warning that she would have people removed from the courtroom if she heard any more such racket.
“It's disrespectful of the system, it's disrespectful of the family,” she said.
A woman in the back of the courtroom began to mutter in response, and a bailiff warned her to be quiet. Shockley said the woman would not get another warning.
Then it was Desiree Kirby's turn to speak.
The young mother, who herself suffered debilitating injuries in the shooting, took a seat at the witness stand, with a Victim-Witness advocate standing beside her.
Kirby could barely speak as she sat and wept before the courtroom.
“I still cannot believe my baby is dead,” because of a few cowards, Kirby said.
She said there had been tensions leading up to the shooting, but that they should have been handled in a more civil manner.
“What were you thinking?” she asked Lopez.
Skyler had just graduated from preschool and was headed to kindergarten, his mother recalled.
“My 2-year-old daughter wonders where her brother is. What do I tell her?” she asked.
Kirby said she worked hard to give her children a happy life. Her family has been hurt in so many ways because of the shooting, and she would nothing would ever help the hurt or bring back her son.
Considering aggravating factors
Shockley said before passing sentence that she had to make certain findings. Among them, she commented on the aggravating factors in the case, which influenced her final decision on the sentencing.
The shooting, she said, involved great violence against particularly vulnerable victims.
She said Lopez had numerous criminal cases – which had become increasingly violent – leading up to the shooting. He had been on probation for two previous cases, with his prior performance on probation found to be unsatisfactory.
Because of the severity of the crimes, Shockley said the law required that Lopez would have to serve his terms consecutively, and would not be allowed concurrent services. Shockley also noted that Lopez had a history of substance abuse.
Shockley stayed imposing sentences for the six assault with a firearm counts and several special allegations as the Probation Department had proposed.
After giving him the 311-year sentence, Shockley ordered Lopez to pay more than $66,000 in restitution. She said he would get 407 days of credit for time served.
It was at that point that she addressed Lopez directly, saying she hoped that at some point he would ask himself how he could do something that caused so much suffering.
She also warned him that state prison “is a very difficult place.”
Email Elizabeth Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org .