Fire Inflicts Extensive Damage Near Church

By Pamela Bond

Waco Tribune-Herald

Aug. 14, 2007

Waco firefighters put out a fire that damaged a building belonging to a local church Monday afternoon.

No one was injured in the blaze, reported about 4 p.m. in a two-story white building at 1415 Washington Ave. The building, owned by St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, included an upstairs apartment previously used for the church’s youth group.

Damage to the building appeared to be extensive. Church custodian Jerry Hassel said he heard an explosive popping sound shortly after 4 p.m. while he was in a nearby building and saw flames in the first story of the white building. Cathy Smith said she was working in another church building when she also heard the sound but thought it was a door closing.

After the popping sound, electricity went off in the buildings where Smith and Hassel were working. Hassel ran to Smith and pointed out the fire, and Smith called 9-1-1.

“The second floor used to be used for the youth,” Smith said. “It’s got some old furniture that had been donated, but it hasn’t been used for a while. But we’ve had trouble with vagrants living in the first floor because we’ve seen evidence such as food and even pets. That’s what concerned me when I called, was that someone might be in there.”

As the temperature rose above 100 degrees, the Waco firefighters worked to get the fire down. They searched the building but found no one.

“The boys did a good job,” said Waco fire Capt. Chris Pechacek. “If there’s ever a possibility that someone may be in the building, we’ll be sure to go in and check.”

Firefighters were concerned about the fire moving to the building next door, also owned by St. Mary’s. While the fire melted the siding of that building, Pechacek said Smith’s quick call probably saved it from the flames.

Waco Fire Marshal Jerry Hawk did not know the fire’s cause Monday afternoon, though he said the fire obviously started from a small flame. Pechacek said it began on the first floor.

Police Arrest Man Charged in Burnings


By Pamela Bond

Waco Tribune-Herald

July 21, 2007


When 23-year-old Ishmael Lopez was arrested early Friday morning, it wasn’t the first time he felt the cold metal grip of handcuffs around his wrists.

The man accused by Waco police of setting his mother, aunt and a third woman on fire this week had been convicted previously on a variety of charges, including drug possession, theft and driving while intoxicated, and he had his probation revoked.

Even so, Rhett Domangue, Lopez’s boss and owner of RMD Contracting, described him as a “good guy.”

“He was always cordial on the job and he was very easy to get along with,” Domangue said. “He didn’t cause any trouble. I’ve never had any complaints out of him.”

Police say Lopez poured gasoline on his mother, Adela Lopez, 52; his aunt, Diann Gonzales, 44; and a third woman, Lydia Herrera, 43; then lit them on fire around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday after an argument at Adela Lopez’s home in the 3600 block of Grim Avenue in North Waco.

On Friday evening, Waco police charged Lopez with two counts of attempted murder, intending death, in connection with the assaults on the women, a McLennan County Jail spokeswoman said.

Adela Lopez is in serious condition and Gonzales is in critical condition at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, where the three women were transferred from Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center.

No information is available on Herrera’s condition.

“It’s really out of character for him, in my opinion,” Domangue said. “It surprised me that what happened happened, it really did. He was always very kind. He just didn’t seem like that kind of person.”

Negotiated surrender

Authorities had been negotiating with Ishmael Lopez by cell phone from Wednesday morning until he turned himself in at the city fire marshal’s office shortly after midnight Thursday, Fire Marshal Jerry Hawk said.

Ishmael Lopez then was taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in an ambulance and treated for burns, Hawk said. Afterward, Lopez was moved to the jail and charged with arson, a first-degree felony, and aggravated assault, a charge unrelated to the fire.

Efforts by the Tribune-Heraldto contact Lopez’s family were unsuccessful Friday. A woman answering a phone at the home of Ishmael Lopez’s brother said he was out of town.

When he was 14, Ishmael Lopez went into the custody of the Texas Youth Commission for an unknown offense. His next brush with the law came Dec. 13, 2002, when he was arrested for possession of two ounces or less of marijuana in Beverly Hills, according to court documents. He pleaded guilty to the Class B misdemeanor and received a parole sentence and fine. His probation was revoked, however, after he failed to show up for orientation processing or pay the court and probation fees, according to court documents. He was then sentenced to 10 days in jail.

On Aug. 10, 2006, Ishmael Lopez pleaded guilty to theft of a television worth between $50 and $500 dollars, driving while intoxicated and possession of marijuana. For all three charges, he was sentenced to 45 days in jail. He was allowed to complete his time on work release, so he worked during the day as a laborer at RMD Contracting and spent his nights in jail.

Lopez was arrested again on a charge of possession of marijuana on Jan. 12, 2007, in Woodway, and pleaded guilty in March, according to court documents. He was sentenced to 100 days in jail and was granted work release with the same employer. Also in March, police arrested Lopez for theft of $50 to $500. A court date on that charge has not been set.

Lopez was being held at McLennan County Jail in lieu of a $150,000 bond for the assault and arson charges Friday night, a jail spokeswoman said. He is awaiting arraignment on the charges of attempted murder, she said.