After her 23-year-old son was sentenced Friday to more than three years in jail for a 20-day episode involving drugs, burglary, auto theft and a 100-plus mph car chase, an Albemarle County mother has a message for others.
"I want to call out the youth to stay away from drugs," Sylvia Lopez told The Daily Progress through a Spanish-to-English translator.
Lopez expressed gratitude to police and court personnel, she said, for "rescuing" her son, Carlos Alfredo Dupon-Lopez.
Albemarle Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins sentenced Dupon-Lopez to an active sentence of three years and four months with more than 45 years suspended. He has pleaded guilty to eight charges, including eluding police, drug possession, burglary and grand auto larceny.
What the prosecutor called a "rampage" and a "drug-fueled crime spree" neared its end on the night of May 17, 2022. That evening, Dupon-Lopez allegedly entered a home, found a set of car keys, and drove off with a 2020 Honda.
Later that night, a state trooper clocked the vehicle going 88 mph in a 65 mph zone on Interstate 64, according to prosecutor Richard Farley. The pursued vehicle reached a speed of 103 mph and then attempted to elude the trooper by driving through a rest area at 80 mph, Farley said.
"Then he slams his brakes," said Farley, asserting that the driver then crossed the median and began heading the wrong way on the highway.
"At that point, the trooper called off the pursuit," said Farley. "Thankfully, nobody was killed."
Investigators quickly found the car wrecked in a ditch with methamphetamine inside, according to court documents, but the driver was gone. A tracking dog was summoned but grew tired before finding the driver, Farley said.
The next morning, however, a Crozet-area homeowner discovered Dupon-Lopez asleep on their front porch, Farley told the court. Investigators found not only stolen items in the wrecked Honda, but now they had a suspect for multiple unsolved cases in jurisdictions including Charlottesville and Madison County.
"It was a reign of terror, and there has to be consequences," Farley told the judge.
Defense attorney Mike Hallahan, however, downplayed the situation, including the allegation of wrong-way driving.
"It was a U-turn made in a ditch, so it probably didn’t affect any other vehicles," said Hallahan.
Urging lenience, Hallahan noted that by all accounts Dupon-Lopez cooperated with investigators and took responsibility for his crimes, something that his client indicated when the judge asked if he had anything to say.
"I just want to apologize to society and to the community," he said through an interpreter, noting that drugs were his downfall.
"I’m not excusing what I did," he continued. "I just know that I wouldn’t have done it without the drugs."
Through the interpreter, he told the court that he has a 2-year-old daughter and has completed his GED, a graduation equivalency diploma, during the 16 months he’s been at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
"Both counsel make very good points," said Higgins.
"Mr. Farley is correct; it was somewhat of a reign of terror on the community," she continued. "However, as Mr. Hallahan points out, his client is young and did take responsibility."
The three years and four months sentence that Higgins chose was above the midpoint but below the maximum recommendation in the sentencing guidelines. Higgins also imposed two years of probation, ordered about $2,900 in restitution, and mandated that Dupon-Lopez remain on good behavior for 45 years.
Testifying as his sole sentencing witness, his mother said Dupon-Lopez will have a good job with her older son’s painting company waiting for him when he is freed and that she’d make sure he steers clear of drugs and other trouble.
"I already told him," she warned, "that I myself would turn him in."