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Mother of 2 Slain Children Was Involved in Custody Battle

May 30, 1996

The mother and the grandmother of two slain East Los Angeles children were being held without bail Wednesday in connection with the deaths, a crime that may have been the result of a long-running custody dispute, authorities said.

According to court documents, Martha Israel-Lopez, 35, and her ex-husband, Rafael Lopez, had been embroiled for several years in a bitter dispute over who would raise their children, Victor, 8, and Judith, 4.

Israel-Lopez, who claimed that her husband molested the youngsters, had sole custody of the children, county officials said. But Lopez, saying his wife had made false allegations against him, was attempting to gain custody.

On May 15, Israel-Lopez was ordered to appear at a hearing in which her former husband hoped to win custody of the children. After she failed to attend, a warrant was issued for her arrest.

The children's badly decomposed bodies were found at Israel-Lopez's South Simmons Avenue house on Sunday. Two days later, Israel-Lopez and her mother, Garciela Israel, 65, were arrested when La Palma police stopped their car. The women are expected to be arraigned today.

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