VAN NUYS : Plea Entered in Freak Auto Accident Case

A North Hollywood woman whose 2-year-old son knocked her idling car into gear, causing it to run over five children, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Van Nuys Municipal Court to misdemeanor child-endangerment charges.

Estela Lopez, 33, was charged earlier this month with two child-endangerment counts in connection with the July 30 freak accident.

In the more serious count, she is accused of endangering the life of her son, Osvaldo, who authorities say climbed into the car and knocked it into gear while Lopez ran into her apartment to fetch her purse before a family outing to a fast-food restaurant.

Four of the five children, ages 5 to 10, were hospitalized in serious or critical condition after the car struck a sofa they were playing on in the driveway, forcing it into a wall. They since have been released from the hospital.


Lopez, a mother of three, faces a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted. She is scheduled to go on trial Oct. 4 in Municipal Court.

She disputes claims by police, prosecutors and some witnesses that she left Osvaldo in the car when she ran into the apartment. She has said in interviews that the boy somehow opened the car door and climbed in on his own.