SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The father and stepmother of an 11-year-old boy who was found dead in Northern California a year ago have been arrested in his death and are accused of torturing and poisoning the child, authorities announced Thursday.
Jordan Piper, 36, and Lindsay Piper, 38, were arrested Wednesday and are facing child abuse, poisoning and torture charges in the death of Roman Anthony Lopez, Placerville Police Chief Joseph Wren said.
“Although an autopsy revealed no obvious signs of trauma, Roman was found to be severely malnourished and dehydrated at the time of his death,” Wren said.
Jordan Piper is charged with an additional count of willfully failing to provide food and water to the boy. Lindsay Piper is charged with a separate count of poisoning, Wren said.
Wren said he couldn’t give more details on the abuse Roman endured because the investigation is ongoing.
“I can tell you we have evidence that proves each of the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt that they were arrested for,” he said.
The Pipers were arrested in Calaveras County and have been booked into El Dorado County jail in Placerville. It wasn’t immediately clear if they have an attorney who can speak on their behalf.
Their arrests come after an extensive investigation involving several social services and other government agencies who Wren said had contacted the Pipers, who moved often.
At the time of Roman’s death, the Pipers were caring for seven other children. Three of the children were not related to the Pipers and are back with their biological family and another three were placed with Child Protective Services. One of the children is now 18, Wren said.
Roman was found dead hours after being reported missing from his Placerville home on Jan. 11, 2020. Police said his death was being investigated as suspicious but provided no other information about suspects, the boy’s death or where in the community 44 miles (71 kilometers) east of Sacramento his body had been found.
Wren said the boy was found inside a storage bin in the basement of the Piper’s home and that no details surrounding the boy’s death had been made public until Thursday to protect the investigation.
“This is a horrific crime that rocked the community,” he said, his voice breaking at times. “The death of a child affects us all.
The Pipers told the Sacramento Bee in an interview after the boy’s body was found that they had searched for him but but could not find him.
“We have no idea what happened, where they found him, what the autopsy report said, if that’s even done, any suspects, nothing,” Jordan Piper said at the time. “We have nothing.”