LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - A Lexington County mother has been sentenced to 38 years in prison after pleading guilty to the death of her 4-year-old daughter.
Chief Administrative Judge Walton J. McLeod, IV sentenced Cynthia Estrada-Lopez following her guilty plea to Homicide by Child Abuse on Thursday, April 1 in Lexington County. Lopez will not be eligible for parole.
“The death of this precious 4-year-old girl due to child abuse is one of the most tragic cases that we’ve seen,” said Eleventh Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard. “Lilly’s death is incomprehensible to us and is compounded by the callous nature of her mother’s actions.”
According to court records, on July 31, 2017, the Lexington County 911 Center received a call at 9:05 p.m. to the home of Cynthia Estrada-Lopez and her husband, David Steadman, on Nazareth Road. The reports show that first responders found Lilly unresponsive on the living room floor and began CPR. Lilly was later pronounced dead at Lexington Medical Center.
An investigation by the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department determined evidence of child abuse and neglect, including numerous bruises to Lilly’s head and body.
Evidence presented during the guilty plea included statements that Lopez made to investigators over the course of eleven days. Lopez initially told first responders that she discovered her daughter collapsed in a hallway.
During the investigation, a sibling participated in a forensic interview conducted by an interviewer who is specially trained in working with children. During the interview, the sibling reported witnessing his mother restrain and tape Lilly to her bed. He also reported witnessing his mother place tape over Lilly’s mouth “so she doesn’t cry.”
Following the forensic interview of the sibling, investigators with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department returned to the home on Nazareth Road on August 10, 2017 and conducted an additional search.
According to reports, investigators discovered remnants of tape in a trash bag that were constructed in a fashion consistent with a mouth restraint. They also observed a torn piece of tape along the headboard of Lilly’s bed.
Investigators conducted an additional interview with Lopez and she confessed to placing tape over Lilly’s mouth and restraining her to the bed on the night of July 31, 2017.
In her voluntary statement to investigators, she admitted that Lilly was “gasping for air” after her husband later removed the tape. She further admitted that she and her husband waited “at least maybe an hour” before calling 911 or seeking medical assistance for Lilly. She stated that she waited to seek medical assistance for Lilly because she “did not want to look worse than I already am.”
An autopsy by a forensic pathologist revealed that Lilly died as a direct result of aspiration of food particles into her lungs, caused by Lopez placing tape over her mouth and physically restraining her. The autopsy report also noted dehydration and blunt force trauma to Lilly’s head.
Lopez was arrested on August 11, 2017 for Homicide by Child Abuse. Her husband, David Steadman, was also arrested after providing statements to law enforcement acknowledging child neglect and their failure to render medical aid to Lilly. Steadman was sentenced to 20 years in prison following a jury trial conviction in February of 2020.
This case was prosecuted by Eleventh Circuit Deputy Solicitor Suzanne Mayes and Assistant Solicitor Robby McNair. Lopez is being transferred to the S.C. Department of Corrections to begin immediate service of her sentence.