Benito "Ben" Lopez, 43, was charged with felony unlawful imprisonment.
Callicoon Center man held family imprisoned
Story by Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON CENTER January 10, 2014 Under normal circumstances, Facebook and law enforcement don’t have the best of relationships.
“Usually people make threats at each other over it, and that’s what we’re following up on,” said Sullivan County Undersheriff Eric Chaboty.
But in a twist on the old story, Facebook is being credited with helping save a Callicoon Center woman and her two children, ages 11 and 12, from a scary domestic situation.
According to deputies, Benito “Ben” Lopez, 43, held his girlfriend and their son and daughter hostage in their house for a period of six days, beginning on New Year’s Eve. Lopez allegedly disconnected the family’s phone line and took away his girlfriend’s keys as well as the electronic gadgets of everyone in the family, and did not allow anyone to leave their Hessinger-Lare Road home.
The children’s school was cancelled due to weather conditions on Thursday and Friday, helping him keep up the captive situation.
But according to Chaboty, Lopez did allow them to access a computer, and his fast-thinking girlfriend was able to get on Facebook while pretending to play games on the machine. She alerted a relative via the social media site, who alerted Sullivan County Probation.
Lopez is already on probation for a felony DWI, and Sheriff’s deputies have a series of domestic complaints made against Lopez dating back 10 years.
“Probation called us and said, ‘He’s holding his family captive and he may be armed,’” Chaboty reported.
When deputies/probation officers arrived at the house on Monday, they found Lopez’ girlfriend and the children still trapped at home despite school being back in session and some 15 cases of empty beer cans, which the father had allegedly drank during the hostage situation.
Lopez was unarmed, and there were no weapons on the scene, but he was arrested immediately and charged with three counts of unlawful imprisonment and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child as well as violating his probation.
Neighbors of the family expressed shock over the arrest, many taking ironically to Facebook to talk about the shock of the news. Active in a number of community organizations, Lopez has been a youth baseball coach and recently helped run the Jeff area youth baseball organization.
Arraigned in front of Town of Callicoon Justice Ed McKenna, Lopez was sent to Sullivan County Jail on $5,000 bail.