"I still feel like it's a fog, and it's still a dream," Nikia Lopez said just one day after the emotional, gut-wrenching sentencing of her ex-husband for the deaths of their two children.
Henry Lopez drank himself to sleep with a cigarette in his mouth in his Rancho Bernardo condominium in October 2017, sparking a fire that killed 10-year-old Cristos and 7-year-old Isabella. He did not try to save them.
On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Steven Stone sentenced Henry Lopez to 12 years and 8 months in prison, the maximum allowed by law, but Henry Lopez could serve half that time.
"I think it's sickening. Twelve years for two children?" said Nikia Lopez, adding she is grateful the judge said he would have given Henry Lopez more time if the law allowed it.
Nikia Lopez began her victim-witness impact statement Wednesday with a deep breath, then started tapping her nails on the podium, while staring at her former husband.
"I was waiting, I was waiting for him to say I'm sorry, " Nikia Lopez said, "I looked at him just to give him time to say or even mouth the words 'Im sorry,' and he did not; and once he didn't do, it was game on."
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Nikia Lopez showed the courtroom a slide show documenting his misdeeds. From cheating to drinking, to physical and emotional abuse.
At one point, when she said he could not handle the emotional difficulty surrounding her double mastectomy, Henry Lopez suddenly screamed, "You're lying, why are you lying?"
Nikia Lopez said she is glad he erupted in court because he showed his true colors. He showed people what she experienced.
"Like wow! It scared me, yes, that did scare me. Even in a court of law, he has no fear; I'm thinking to myself out of all the times you could have interrupted, you could have said, 'I'm sorry, I am so sorry I made a mistake,'" she said.
Henry Lopez also told the judge justice had not been served and he called the prosecutor a "lying individual" for saying he abandoned his children.
"I never abandoned my children," said Henry Lopez.
"How are you going to call this man, who is fighting stronger than you for justice for your children, a liar?" Nikia Lopez said.
She went on to say the prosecutor proved his case that Henry Lopez left his children without trying to rescue them from the fire.
Henry Lopez also called himself an "awesome" dad. Nikia Lopez said Henry Lopez was a good provider, but it takes more than money to be a great father.
"You have to be present, you have to make sure your kids are safe," she said.
Nikia Lopez said she said everything she wanted to say to her former husband but did not hear all she wanted to hear.
"He could have said what really happened and he did not. It was all 'I, I, I. I'm an educated man, I'm wonderful, I'm a good husband,' not one time did he say I'm sorry," she said.
Without an apology or accountability, Nikia Lopez said it is hard to forgive Henry Lopez for what he did to her children.
Now that the court case is over, she said she will not have to see Henry Lopez anymore or go to court to deal with the legal case.
"I'm finally free of him, where I can finally move on," she added.
She hopes to go back to her teaching career and also help women who are victims of domestic violence.
She now can mourn the loss of her two children.
"Now, I can finally accept my children will never come back. I will never hear them again, see them again, or touch them again, and I have to teach myself how to get through life with that," she said, fighting back tears.