Man who fled court sentenced to life in prison in toddler's death

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) -- A 27-year-old Arizona City man who had fled the state has been sentenced to natural life in prison on his 2012 first-degree murder conviction in a toddler's death.

The Pinal County Attorney's Office says a judge sentenced Jose Lopez on Friday.

Lopez was arrested in Las Vegas in March. He fled just before he was convicted of first-degree murder and child abuse in the 2007 death of 21-month-old Mia Alvarez.

Lopez had posted bond after his arrest and was required to attend his trial.

Pinal County prosecutors say Lopez fled the courthouse during a recess and wasn't present when the jury announced its verdict.

Lopez arrived back in Pinal County and was booked into the Pinal County Jail on March 20, where he was held without bond until his sentencing, Friday.

“When involving our little children and defenseless victims, as with this case, we stop at nothing in our pursuit of justice," Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles said in a news release. "No amount of running or hiding will prevent us from holding dangerous murderers accountable in Pinal County."

Authorities say Lopez had been babysitting for his fiancee in Arizona City in July 2007.

The girl suffered skull fractures, a lacerated liver and numerous bruises. While Lopez and Mia's mother said those injuries during when she flung herself off a chair during a tantrum, doctors at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center said they were consistent with abuse.

In addition to the life sentence for murder, Lopez also was sentenced to 17 years for child abuse. According to the Pinal County Attorney's Office, those terms are to run consecutively.