Joe Lopez’s parole torments victim

HARLINGEN — Krystal Lopez shakes when she thinks about Tejano star Joe Lopez getting out of prison.

In 2006, a Cameron County jury gave Lopez 32 years in prison for three counts stemming from his April 2004 rape of Krystal, when she was only 13.

Lopez, a Grammy-award winning singer and co-founder of Grupo Mazz, was sentenced to 20 years for one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child; eight years for a second count of aggravated sexual assault of a child; and four years for indecency with a child.

But since he’s serving his sentences simultaneously, he was ordered to serve 20 years in prison.

Earlier this month, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to parole Lopez, Krystal’s uncle, after 10 years in prison.

“It’s basically like a slap in my face,” Krystal, now 26, a bio technician in Houston, said in a telephone interview Friday. “Why would you give him 32 years and he serves 10?”

Krystal said the parole board denied her the opportunity to make her case against Lopez’s parole.

“I am against and will voice out against Mr. Lopez’s parole in every way,” she wrote in a letter to the parole board. “I ask that the parole board reconsider his parole or hold another hearing where I can have the opportunity to speak out against it …”

Krystal said the parole board failed to notify her of its plans to vote on Lopez’s parole.

“When I went to testify in his criminal trial in 2006, I was promised that I would be notified by the parole board of any parole hearings, either by phone, letter or other correspondence,” she wrote in her letter to the parole board.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not disclose whether its Victim Notification System informed Krystal prior to the Parole Board’s vote to parole Lopez.

“We cannot answer your question about specific information contained in the confidential database,” Robert Hurst, a spokesman with the Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville, told the Valley Morning Star.

Krystal said she didn’t want to hide behind anonymity, like most rape victims whose names are withheld in media coverage.

“It’s not a big secret,” she said of her identity. “People are bashing my name in the Internet. (Lopez) wants to put his name out there on everything. I can, too. I’m going to put my name out there and not be afraid.”

The parole board cited two reasons behind its decision to grant Lopez parole, including his completion of “programs and activities in the individual treatment program plan that should enhance chances to obtain and maintain full-time employment” and because this was his first incarceration, said Timothy McDonnell, board administrator for the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

As part of his parole, Lopez must successfully complete a four-month Sex Offender Education Program.

Bill Habern, a Houston lawyer who represented Lopez during his parole hearing, said Lopez continued to maintain his innocence before the board.

As part of his preparation for the hearing, he sent two polygraphists to interview Lopez, Habern said.

Lopez passed each exam, Habern said, maintaining his innocence of the charges for which he was convicted.

Habern also said he sent sex therapist Dr. Shelley Graham to see Lopez.

Graham found Lopez to be “a very low risk threat,” Habern said.

Krystal said her uncle has “denied” he raped her.

“Part of what I wanted him to do was to admit he did it,” Krystal said. “But he’s still denying it. I feel if he’s still in denial, he’s a threat.”

Hurst said a release date has not been set for Lopez, who remains in the W.F. Ramsey Unit in Rosharon.

Some reports suggest he will be out before Mother’s Day.

But Lopez’s parole torments Krystal.

“It makes me feel angry and betrayed,” she said.

She shakes, her heart racing, when she hears her uncle’s name.

“You don’t say that name around here,” Krystal said. “If I hear his name, I will literally freak out. My anxiety gets super high.”

Krystal, the single mother of a 9-year-old boy, said it took her years to try to cope with her rape.

“It messed me up, maybe forever,” she said.

Now, Lopez’s parole brings back the horror of her rape in his condo in Rancho Viejo, she said.

“It brings me back to where I was,” she said. “I just have all that again. It plays in my head — the whole scene.”

The rape left her shattered, she said.

“I was not right in my head. There was a lot of anger in me,” she said. “I had nightmares for seven years — I’d wake up and be screaming. There were times when I would cry for a long time.”

Thirteen years later, she remains tortured.

“Basically, I don’t trust anyone now, like family, especially,” she said. “I have no trust in men. I push away friends. It’s hard for me to be social around people. I feel anxious, my palms sweat.”

The rape tore out part of her soul, she said.

“I feel like I don’t know how to love,” she said. “To me, it feels like a joke, like there’s no such thing as love. That’s what I’ve suffered the longest. I feel like crying, but the tears won’t come out.”