Jane McQuain, 51, was his estranged wife. He killed her with a 30-pound dumbbell and a butcher’s knife.
William McQuain, 11, was Jane’s only child. He lured him into the woods and killed him with a baseball bat.
“The two people on Earth who loved you,” Montgomery County Circuit Judge Mary Beth McCormick told Curtis Lopez on Monday afternoon, describing the victims of two horrific murders that captured the region’s attention in the fall of 2011.
“Frankly, it is too bad the death penalty is no longer available,” she added. “The circumstances of this case, and your criminal history, truly would warrant that penalty.”
McCormick sentenced Lopez, who was convicted of the murders in January, to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The sentence capped an emotional, three-hour hearing in which friends and family members came to court to honor the lives of Jane and William McQuain.
Jane McQuain had entered the middle of her life as a struggling alcoholic with no job or home. Then she had William, who became her life, who turned her to sobriety. She became a “wonderful angel,” her friend Jennifer Jones said. William seemed to touch almost everyone he met. As a 9-year-old, William wrote a short biography that described how he’d looked up to Lopez — who was not his biological father and lived in North Carolina but had always been in and out of his life.
“I love to play sports and video games,” he wrote. “I sort of like poetry. My mom’s name is Jane. My dad’s name is Curtis.”
Authorities said that Lopez, 47, came to Maryland to steal McQuain’s Honda CR-V, after which he killed the two people who could place him in the McQuain apartment.
Prosecutors said Monday that he had an unrepentant, violent and manipulative personality. By the time he was 20, Lopez had racked up seven convictions for theft, robbery and other charges, Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Danielle Sartwell told the judge.
Around that time, Lopez chased down an acquaintance and stabbed him 18 to 19 times and left him for dead on the side of a Pennsylvania highway. The victim survived, in part because a motorist who pulled up happened to be a medic. “Dead men tell no tales,” Lopez had told a friend when explaining the crime, according to prosecutors.
He was sent to prison, where he participated in a riot by putting a pillowcase over the head of a corrections officer. “There is no justification for me being so cruel and causing so much pain,” he told the Pennsylvania parole board prior to his release.
For part of that time, even in prison, he was married to McQuain. The two stayed in each other’s lives after his release, and in 2008 McQuain called Lopez the one true love of her life. Still, Lopez settled in North Carolina, where he began dating a woman who told him she wanted a new car.
Lopez said he’d go up north and get her one. Deputy State’s Attorney John Maloney indicated in court that Lopez didn’t care what he had to do to get it.
“He has murder in his heart,” Maloney said. “And has murder in his DNA.”
Maloney compared what happened next to a line from the book “Angela’s Ashes.” “Beyond the beyonds,” Maloney said.
Lopez stayed with McQuain and William for about two weeks, immersing himself in their lives and even going to the beach with them for a few days.
During that time, he sent his girlfriend in North Carolina a photograph of himself in McQuain’s Honda, holding it out as a vehicle he was perhaps looking at in a car lot. The night of Sept. 30, 2011, William went to a friend’s house for a sleepover. Lopez and McQuain were alone and, according to prosecutors, Lopez attacked her while she was sleeping. He crushed her head with the weight and then stabbed her.
At that point, Lopez faced a decision: flee or wait a few hours and pick up William at a friend’s house where he had spent the night. McCormick, the judge, described what he did next.
“You took William from a sleepover, got a baseball bat out, took him into the woods and crushed his skull into many pieces,” McCormick told Lopez. “And this was a person who called you dad.”
Montgomery County detectives tracked Lopez to North Carolina, where he had gone to present the Honda to his girlfriend.
“Look what I got my baby,” he said on arrival, according to prosecutors.
In court Monday, prosecutors played video snippets of Montgomery Detectives Randy Kucsan and Dimitry Ruvin interviewing Lopez, who refused to answer their questions and at one point asked them if they had a motive in the case.
During the hearing, Lopez spoke briefly. He didn’t specifically say he had killed McQuain or William, but he addressed their friends and family members in the court.
“I am sorry for your loss. There’s no words that can . . .” Lopez said, his voice trailing off, before composing himself and concluding. “This is a no-win situation, whatsoever. Thank you.”
McCormick also acknowledged McQuain and William’s friends and family, saying there was little to add to the eloquence with which they described the lives lost and the depths of their sadness. One of those speakers was William’s godmother, who has a daughter who considered William a brother. After his death, she always wore a jacket of his, even when the weather was warm.
“Mommy, that’s the only way,” she told her mom, “that I can keep my brother close to me and nobody can harm him.”
Jones, another close friend of the McQuains, was the host of the sleepover. She told McCormick how her son misses his friend and is still afraid of Lopez. “Has he been locked up?” he asked his mother recently.