Over the Waterfall

A vale of mystery surrounded Philly native Lisa Lopes' short life. Her family speaks out publicly for the first time about the strange circumstances of her death.

By Solomon Jones
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 8 | Posted Aug. 14, 2002

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Lopes' party stopped and found the boy critically wounded. They loaded him into the car, and Lisa, ever the caretaker, cradled the dying boy's bleeding head in her arms. Someone gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as they rushed him to a nearby hospital. Once there, someone called back to the Usha Healing Village to speak with Ronald.

"They said, 'We hit a little boy,'" he says. "Then they told me he was on life support. And then the next day he died. It was a shock."

The surname of the boy's family--Lopez.

Lisa--exhibiting the generosity that her family says was both her blessing and her curse--paid for the boy's medical care and funeral. And though her assistant was never charged with any wrongdoing, Lopes later compensated the family for their loss. She returned to Usha wearing the evidence of what she'd been through.

"Lisa had blood all over her shirt when she came back," says her cousin Jasmine Brodie. "She kept the boy's shoes and brought them into the kitchen and sat them on a chair and took pictures of them with the video camera. Then she told us what happened."

The members of her entourage listened in shocked silence, not knowing the boy's death would be a strange harbinger of things to come.

ON APRIL 25, JUST WEEKS AFTER BEING told of the fatal accident on a nearby Honduran road, Ronald Lopes found himself looking into the blood-stained, tear-streaked face of his sister Raina, who'd just been driven back to Usha from another accident scene.

"I asked Raina if everybody was all right, and she said, 'I don't know,'" Ronald recalls. "I asked about Lisa, and she said, 'I don't know.' When she said, 'I don't know,' something came over me, and something told me that something really bad had happened."

As Ronald jumped into a waiting vehicle and was driven to the accident scene, he recalled Lisa's strange behavior that day.

He'd wondered why she had worn all white in the morning, then changed to all black in the evening, pacing before she'd gotten into the SUV. When he got out of the car and saw his sister's body, he believed that Lisa--who was driving at the time of the accident--had known she was going to die.

Once at the accident scene, he unleashed a profanity-laced tirade, jumping up and down and screaming before a sense of calm took hold. He reached down and cradled his sister in his arms, just as she had cradled the little boy weeks before.

As he put his hands into her mouth in an effort to clear her airway, her body stiffened. He held her as they drove to a nearby hospital, knowing there was nothing more he could do.

"One thing I'll never forget is the feeling of having my sister's arms go cold in my hands," he says. "The hospital was like a 10-minute ride. And by the time we got to the hospital, her body was cold."

Thirty-one years earlier, nearly half a continent away from the Honduran road where she died, Lisa Lopes was born in Philadelphia's Naval Hospital.

"I was in a lot of pain ... I had a hard time dilating," says her mother, Wanda Coleman, of the day Lisa was born. "They had to break my water and they gave me a saddle block--that's when they put a needle in the lower part of your spine and it numbs you. Eventually, they pulled her out with tongs."

Even on that day, her mother and father--who met while attending Germantown and Gratz high schools respectively--experienced many of the same problems that would plague their 13 years of on-again-off-again marriage.

Wanda says Lisa's father, an Army soldier, arrived at the hospital drunk and carrying artificial flowers. "After that I was pretty much raising Lisa on my own, with him spending--just wasting--a lot of the money. It got to the point where I had to work and pay rent because he wasn't bringing the money home, and I had to file for an allotment from his pay."

As Lisa's father's drinking worsened, the marital problems escalated. Coleman says he beat her, sometimes in front of Lisa and later in front of her younger siblings. When the beatings would start, Wanda and the children would leave to stay with her father, Jose Andino, and his wife, Eva.

In between, Wanda says, her husband often bought alcohol and drugs with money that should have paid for rent or food. He sometimes left the small family stranded and penniless on military bases when he shipped out on deployments.

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Comments 1 - 8 of 8
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1. Laura deAndrade-Baptista said... on Feb 1, 2011 at 08:25PM

“Just read this article; very interesting......I did not know Lisa but her great grandfather Immanuel Lopes was my Uncle (my father's brother) We are of Cape Verdean descent. I wondered what happened to her Uncle Anthony as he stopped calling me........now I sadly know he is deceased.........when she passed away, I left a comment on her memorial page.........I never heard from her camp.......I am not a "groupie" , I just want to say, I wished I had known you and I know you are very happy now resting with our Lord.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:00PM

“Unfortunately, people fall victim to what they strongly believe in. That belief can edify or destroy ones life. There are two forces operating in this world Jesus and satan. One speaks life eternal and the other speaks death eternal. It is important for every soul to seek a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and He will keep you in perfect peace and lead you in a path or righteousness for his name sake. Stay in the word of God, read your bible and lean not to your own understanding and the Lord shall direct your path. Read Proverbs Chap 4 & 5. God Bless!”

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3. Angelo said... on Jun 26, 2011 at 11:08AM

“Laura, how could her great grandfather be your uncle. Anthony was Lisa's uncle. For him to be your uncle, then you'd be her cousin, which means one of your parents is a brother/sister of Lisa's father, Ronald. For Lisa's great grandfather, Immanuel to be your uncle and for Lisa's uncle Anthony to also be your uncle is impossible. Perhaps you were not contacted by her "camp" because your story doesn't hang together!”

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4. Jane Hoffman said... on Aug 10, 2011 at 05:25AM

“I followed the group for years. I am not a "music" person but their music touched a true nerve and openness with me. I was very sad after her death. I sent her mother a rap I wrote in honor of Lisa.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jun 14, 2012 at 12:38PM

“Her dad moved to Kinston N.C my hometown i wonder who was the cousin he came down here to stay with. Y did they get into an argument and where did they stay at? because Kinston is such a historic town the house is probably still standing....Wish i knew which one it was or who they were?”

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6. Lisa said... on Aug 13, 2012 at 04:40PM

“@Angelo, You probably will never read this, but if you actually paid attention when you read Laura's post you would see she never said that Anthony was also her Uncle. She said that she'd wondered why she hadn't heard from LISA'S Uncle Anthony.”

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7. Cortnei said... on Oct 22, 2013 at 05:28PM

“I cant believe lisa died she was so pretty”

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8. Johnny said... on Mar 29, 2014 at 04:13PM

“Damn this was sad to read, and is almost chilling. I was thinking about taking a trip to Dr.Sebi's village in Honduras too myself but after reading this article I think I'm good on that and would instead get back in church, pray, meditate and try to do other things to relieve my stress and anxiety. Lisa was so beautiful, talented and had a lot to offer to the world and though her life was short she touched so many people's lives while she was here. I mean to think that it has been years since she left the earth yet she is still inspiring others, and she has surely inspired me. So with that being said R.I.P Lisa and thanks to Philadelphia Weekly for conducting the interviews and getting the information to make this great article necessary as well as not taking it down since it is so old and some sites actually would. I just know Lisa is now resting in a better place and is with the Lord. She probably even got to reconnect with her father and reconnect with Tupac too. You never know!”


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