Brianna Lopez wasn't even old enough to crawl, and was months from uttering her first word. She barely had the capacity to hold herself up in a sitting position. But before she would be able to master any of those basic skills, or reach any other significant milestones, the 5-month-old girl was dead.
July 19, 2012 marks 10 years since baby Brianna died. The case of child abuse has been labeled one of the worst in New Mexico history. Her death shocked the Borderland community and stirred up compassion and anger the world over.
Autopsy reports show that the baby girl had suffered human bites, punches, pinches, and was dropped, tossed and raped. Her abusers were her mother Stephanie Lopez, father Andy Walters and uncle Stephen Lopez. All three were convicted on child abuse charges and are currently in prison.
When this severe case of child abuse was made public, Dona Ana County officials released only one photograph of the baby to the media. It was at the time the only photo officials said they had of Brianna, and it was taken during her autopsy. The image was heavily doctored to shield the infant's horrifying injuries from public view.
In the 10 years since Brianna's passing, websites have popped up across the Internet with supporters and child abuse victim advocates from around the world mourning her and denouncing the family members convicted in her death. Lawmakers in New Mexico also cracked down on convicted child abusers, enacting tougher legislation. Child abuse is now a first-degree felony punishable by a mandated 30 years in prison.
Dona Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando is asking everyone to remember baby Brianna and her impact on the community and state laws. "Our community has been changed by the circumstances surrounding Brianna's passing," Orlando wrote in a statement sent to ABC-7. "She, as well as all victims of child abuse, have indelibly left a mark in our hearts. It is in their honor that we continue to pursue a safer community so that all children can experience a future without violence."
The District Attorney's Office is collecting goods to donate to the Child Crisis Center of Southern New Mexico in Brianna's honor. Paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, facial tissue, diapers and pull-ups of all sizes are needed. A donation box is in the office, located in Las Cruces at 845 N. Motel Blvd., Suite D. The items will be delivered to the Child Crisis Center on Aug. 3.