2/4/21 Update – Lopez’s father, Jordan Piper, 36, and stepmother, Lindsey Piper, 38, were taken into custody in Calaveras County in connection with Roman’s death. They both face charges of child abuse and torture.

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PLACERVILLE (CBS13) – One year later, the death of a Placerville boy is still a mystery.

Roman Lopez. (credit: Rochelle Lopez)

Eleven-year-old Roman Lopez vanished on January 11, 2020. Despite an autopsy a few days later, answers about his death and what caused it, are still unanswered.

Grace Delew, a neighbor in Placerville, said, “Why have they not been able to figure out what happened?”

Desiree Daniel lived around the corner from Roman Lopez. She said, “I still have no idea what happened to him to this day.”

Twelve months later, neighbors in Placerville want answers.

“It’s just heartbreaking when it happens so close to home,” said Daniel.

Placerville Police haven’t revealed any details about how Roman died, including who found his body and where. The El Dorado County Medical Examiner says the autopsy investigation is ongoing and both the cause and manner of death is right now is “undetermined.”

CBS13 has learned the Sacramento County Coroner has requested new tissue samples from Roman’s body in November, but couldn’t say why.

READ MORE ABOUT ROMAN LOPEZ

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Dr. Ruth Ballard, a Forensics Professor at Sacramento State and a Forensics DNA consultant, said, “sometimes they do an autopsy and they don’t see anything that leads them in any direction in terms of what actually caused the death of the person.”

CBS13 asked Ballard why law enforcement wouldn’t reveal a cause of death in a case like this.

She said, “In police investigations, especially in suspicious deaths like this, they may be holding back information because it could be information that perhaps only the person who killed the boy would know.”

Roman’s family sent CBS13 a statement that reads, “To say this past year has been soul crushing, would be putting it lightly. Learning to navigate life knowing we would never see Roman again has been difficult, but the prayers and support from everyone have been a blessing. We thank God for Law Enforcement working hard to ensure our sweet boy gets the justice he deserves. Roman was such a bright light in our lives. He was always ready and willing to help out, he was always smiling, and cared very much for his family. Our hearts are heavy, but we carry on his memory through art that we’ve had done in his honor, as well as various other small mementos of memorials to him. Our hope is that through this investigation, there will be new laws put in place to prevent a tragedy like this from happening to another family.”

Placerville Police Released a statement on their investigation:

“One year ago, the family of Roman Lopez experienced an unimaginable tragedy. For many of us in the community, that day will always be remembered for a mixture of shock, frustration, and profound grief as we learned of this tragedy. Today, we must comfort the family and friends of Roman and keep them in our thoughts.

This is still a very active suspicious death investigation that involves many different law enforcement and forensic agencies. The investigative agencies have gathered facts and those facts need to be corroborated with evidence and forensics. Some of the most vital answers we seek can only come from thorough forensic analysis and the medical professionals who are tirelessly working with us on this case. We want the facts of this investigation to be undisputed, leaving no questions unanswered. I want to assure everyone that the investigation never slowed or stopped pushing forward to piece together what caused this tragedy.

We understand the public’s concern and at times frustration, but we are working for Roman and his loved ones. It is imperative that this investigation remain confidential and I want to reiterate, there is no continuing threat to the public. We appreciate all of the support during this difficult investigation and we will find out what happened.

Please keep Roman’s family in your heart today.”

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