Crime

He set fire for revenge, leaving 130 homeless. Prison is only part of his punishment.

The Charlotte Fire Department said 40 units of the Woodscape apartments on Farm Pond Lane were damaged or destroyed by the three-alarm fire set by Jesus Lopez.
The Charlotte Fire Department said 40 units of the Woodscape apartments on Farm Pond Lane were damaged or destroyed by the three-alarm fire set by Jesus Lopez.

A 20-year-old undocumented immigrant has pleaded guilty in Charlotte to 32 counts of first-degree arson in connection with a massive fire he set as revenge against his ex-girlfriend last year.

Jesus Lopez, 20, will spend the next four to six years in prison, said the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Violent Crimes Team.

Once released, he'll be arrested again and deported back to Mexico, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The blaze Lopez pleaded guilty to setting in July left 130 people homeless and caused more than $1.3 million in damage.

Seven people were hospitalized, some with broken bones, while scrambling to escape the fire that broke out shortly after midnight on July 16. Some families were forced to jump out of windows from second and third floor units to avoid the flames.

In one case, a 4-year-old girl was thrown out a window by her parents as the heat began to intensify.

Lopez was arrested a few days later and admitted setting the fire as an act of revenge against an ex-girlfriend, who lived in the Woodscape apartments on Farm Pond Lane in east Charlotte, according to the District Attorney's Office involved in prosecuting the case.

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Jesus Lopez Mecklenburg County jail

The fire quickly spread to 40 units, leaving dozens of people living temporarily in a Red Cross shelter or in the homes of friends. The apartments were home to a large number of immigrant families, many of whom lost everything in the fire.

Lopez had no prior arrests in North Carolina, according to court records.

His lack of legal status was uncovered as part of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office’s participation in the 287(g) program, which calls for checking the immigration status of all inmates brought into the county jail.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs
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