Neighbors Shocked by Pines Missing Woman Case

Disbelief after woman's body likely found, adopted son arrested for murder

By Brian Hamacher and Donna Rapado
|  Thursday, Jul 21, 2011  |  Updated 10:54 AM EDT
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Al Quintana, who lived near Natalie Belmonte for years, reacts to the news that her body was likely found and her adopted son, Gerard Lopes, was arrested for her murder.

Al Quintana, who lived near Natalie Belmonte for years, reacts to the news that her body was likely found and her adopted son, Gerard Lopes, was arrested for her murder.

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Adopted Son Arrested in Pines Woman's Murder

Gerard Lopes, 21, who also goes by the last name Belmonte, will be charged with first-degree murder in the death of Natalie Belmonte.
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Following Wednesday's news that the body of a missing Pembroke Pines woman was likely found and her adopted son was arrested for her murder, neighbors expressed their shock at the day's events.

"To have something this dramatic occur to a neighbor, someone that we've known for many many years, and to know that her son is being charged with her death is just incredible," said Al Quintana. "It's just a fantasy, it's the kind of thing that you see more in movies than in real life, it's unbelievable."

Quintana said he's lived three doors down from Natalie Anne Belmonte in the 19300 block of Northwest 5th Street for years, and had been surprised to learn of her disappearance on Sunday.

On Wednesday, police said they found a woman's body, believed to be Belmonte, in a marshy and wooded area not far from her home. Hours later, Belmonte's adopted son, 21-year-old Gerard Lopes, was taken into custody on first-degree murder, sending a shockwave through the neighborhood.

"All the neighbors I talked to were just feeling the same way I am which is just in total shock and disbelief in the way that this has unfolded," Quintana said.

Authorities are waiting for exact confirmation from the Medical Examiner's Office that the body found is Belmonte. But police did say the body has visible signs of trauma.

At Lopes' bond hearing Thursday, where it was revealed he's on suicide watch, Judge John Hurley ordered him held without bond.

Late Wednesday, the Belmonte family issued a statement, thanking the police for their extensive three-day search.

"There are no words to adequately express the depth of our sorrow from the loss of Natalie. We will forever love and cherish her memory," the statement said. "Senseless tragedies such as this, remind us to cherish each day and bring us together as a family and community."

It was also a rough day for Quintana, who said his children used to play With Belmonte's, including Lopes, all the time.  

"It's so ironic because where Natalie was found was a very popular spot for all the kids in this neighborhood to play paintball and to build forts there, it was sort of a play area for them," he said.

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