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Mother Put on Probation in Child-Endangerment Case

October 26, 1994|JULIO MORAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — A North Hollywood woman whose 2-year-old son knocked her idling car into gear, causing it to run over five children in the driveway, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor child-endangerment charge and was sentenced to 24 months probation and 150 hours of community service.

Estela Lopez, 33, entered her plea in Van Nuys Municipal Court as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. She had been charged with two child-endangerment counts in connection with the July 30 accident, and, if convicted, faced a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

A hearing will be held Dec. 6 to determine how much restitution she should pay to the families of the injured children, according to Deputy City Atty. Kjehl Johansen.

Four of the five children, ages 5 to 10, were hospitalized in serious or critical condition after the car struck a sofa they were playing on in the driveway, forcing it into a wall. They were briefly hospitalized and released.

Police and some witnesses said that Lopez left her child in the car with the engine running while she ran into the house to get her purse. Lopez, a mother of three, had maintained that her son somehow opened the car door and climbed in on his own.

In the days after the incident, the district attorney's office declined to file charges saying that, while the injuries were a terrible tragedy, the accident did not merit criminal action.

The city attorney's office later decided to file misdemeanor charges, questioning Lopez's version of what happened and saying that the children's injuries were serious.

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