Top stories of 2018: Joe Lopez released on parole

HARLINGEN — After more than 11 years behind bars, Tejano star Joe Lopez began a new life.

For decades, millions of fans knew him as the charismatic front man for Groupo Mazz, an award-winning, trail-blazing band that long dominated the Tejano music scene.

Then his niece opened the world to her uncle’s horror.

Still, many of his fans continue to stand behind the star.

The closing of this chapter in Joe Lopez’s life makes this one of the biggest stories of 2018.

In March 2018, Lopez was 67 when he walked out of Huntsville prison, free on parole.

In 2006, a Cameron County jury gave Lopez 32 years in prison for raping his niece Krystal Lopez in 2004, when she was 13.

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

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

In January, the Texas Pardons and Parole Board granted Lopez parole after serving a nine-month Sex Offender Treatment Program.

Upon his release, Lopez began serving “supervised parole” through Oct. 31, 2026.

As part of the conditions of his parole, the parole board ordered Lopez not to contact Krystal Lopez nor enter Harris County, where she lives, without prior approval.

In early 2017, the board ordered Lopez to complete the sex offender program after Krystal Lopez told the board she opposed her uncle’s parole.

Before Krystal Lopez’s testimony, it appeared Lopez would be released from prison by fall 2017.

However, Andy Kahan, the city of Houston’s victim advocate, had requested the board grant Krystal Lopez a hearing because she did not receive the opportunity to make her case before the board voted to grant Lopez’s parole.

At the time, Kahan said she had not registered with the state’s Victim Notification System, which notifies victims of such information as parole hearings.

Krystal Lopez’s testimony led the board to extend the length of Lopez’s sex offender treatment program from four to nine months, Kahan said.