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Simon Lopez accepts plea deal, sentenced to life in prison

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

An East Texas man was sentenced to life in prison for the 2010 capital murder of his girlfriend's one-year-old son.

Twenty-eight-year-old Simon Lopez pleaded guilty to killing the boy Friday. His plea came as part of a plea bargain in which the state withdrew their intent to seek the death penalty.

It was two years ago, next week, that 18-month-old Jeremy Silva Jr. was killed. Police said Jeremy and his four-year-old brother were left with Lopez while their mother, Emma Torres, was at work.

Torres was arrested on child endangerment charges for leaving Jeremy and his brother at home with Lopez. She is currently serving a two year state jail sentence for that charge.

It wasn't clear that Lopez's case would end in a plea deal until about 10 a.m. Friday, when the defense notified the Smith County District Attorney's Office that they'd like to enter a bargain.

District attorney Matt Bingham said after consulting with Jeremy's family, everyone was in agreement with this resolution.

Simon Lopez told the judge he was in fact guilty of causing Jeremy's death by striking him with his hand, foot or another hard object. The autopsy revealed that the 18-month-old died from a torn atrium in his heart.

In July 2011, Jeremy's grandmother, Darla Silva, said she'd never be at peace with the loss of her grandson. Back then, her feelings on Lopez being sentenced to death were changing.

"At one point I said, 'The death penalty? Yes. Go for it. Now. Quick. Hurry,' but at the same time, part of me says a long life might be worse," Darla said.

Lopez was on the run for eight months. In December 2010, he was nearly captured at a motel in Dallas, but managed to escape. After the U.S. Marshals Service added Lopez to their Top 15 Most Wanted Fugitives, he was detained in Mexico and brought back to Smith County to stand trial.

Before the hearing Friday, Jeremy's father, aunt and grandmother agreed to have the district attorney's office accept the plea bargain, sparing them the turmoil of many weeks of trial.

"It's extremely difficult on the family. You have 13 to 14 weeks of hearing about the death of your loved one, in addition to that, when they plea guilty, [the defendant] waivers all rights to appeal," said Bingham.

The plea affirmed Lopez's guilt, and that he'll never leave the penitentiary alive.

"Where he's going, he's not going to hurt any other children. So the ultimate penalty, in my mind, is served. He is forever out of the society that contains children," said Smith County First Assistant District Attorney April Sikes.

More than two years of preparing for trial was not lost. Lead investigators said Friday was about justice.

"I feel like justice for Jeremy has been served and I'm just happy for that," said Tyler Police Department Detective Michelle Brock.

"Jeremy Sliva was not just a baby. He was a real live, breathing, human being who's life was cut short at an unbelievably young age," said Sikes.

Jeremy's aunt chose to make a statement to the court at the end of Friday's hearing.

"He (Lopez) did not just take Jeremy away from us. He destroyed us. I will never get to see Jeremy walk. I will never get to see him talk, " she said.

To Lopez, she said, "You will not just suffer from what the court has imposed on you, but you will have to suffer from God and you will have to live with this the rest of your life."

Simon Lopez will never be eligible for parole.

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