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UPDATE: Man accused of manslaughter in death of 7-year-old girl

Jul 10, 2021, 9:18 AM | Updated: Jul 11, 2021, 4:33 pm
7-year-old shooting death...
Photo: Rodriguez Family

HEBER CITY, Utah — Heber City police arrested three men related to the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl Saturday, accusing one of manslaughter in firing what appeared to be a stray bullet.

The probable cause statement filed with the arrests detailed what investigators believe took place Friday night at the Wasatch Commons Apartments in Heber. 

Wasatch County Sheriff Jared Rigby said in an earlier release that a man called 911 Friday night around 10:30 to report he was taking his daughter to the Heber Valley Hospital with a possible gunshot wound. Her family told KSL TV’s Garna Mejia that Zaydanielys Rodriguez was in bed when a stray bullet came through the wall, striking her on the left side. The hospital later confirmed that gunshot wound resulted in the death of the 7-year-old girl. 

Probable cause statement provides new details

In the probable cause statement released Saturday evening, Heber City police say as they responded to the apartments to investigate the shooting, they encountered Christopher O’Connell, 34, who appeared intoxicated. 

“. . . he was obviously intoxicated, he was non-compliant, with slurred speech,” police wrote in the document. 

According to the arresting officer, police also found a handgun on his beltline, which they seized. 

Police said two women who spoke to police accused O’Connell of sexually assaulting them and also waving around a handgun. According to the probable cause statement, he admitted to taking prescription drugs and medication during the evening and providing prescription drugs to Colin Howells, 36. Howells also faces accusations of sexual battery stemming from the accounts of the two women. 

Another witness, in the apartment belonging to Rodriguez and her family, described men who match Howells and O’Connell’s descriptions confronting Rodriguez’s father about rent money. Police said one of the two put his foot in the doorway to prevent the man from closing the door. The witness told police the other man, whose description matched O’Connell’s, held a handgun.  

Death of 7-year-old related to stray bullet, police say

Investigators serving a search warrant of Howell’s apartment found marijuana in his bedroom and a bullet hole that went through his wall, then into the next building, where the bullet struck Rodriguez. 

Police booked O’Connell into jail for on accusations of manslaughter, possession of a controlled substance, carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence, possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, and intoxication. 

Howells faces accusations of sexual battery and intoxication. 

Police accused a third man, Trever Pinter, 21, of obstruction of justice. His apartment was the location of the alleged sexual assault and battery of the two women. In the probable cause statement, police say he lied to them about whether he saw O’Connell with a handgun that night, but then later admitted he did see it. 

School district reaches out, offers counseling

On Sunday, the Wasatch County School District released a statement on Facebook, noting that the 7-year-old girl that died in the shooting had attended J.R. Smith Elementary School. 

 

This is a breaking update. The original version of the story follows. 

HEBER CITY, Utah — The Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl.

Sheriff Jared Rigby says about 10:30 Friday night, a man called 911 to report he was on his way to the Heber Valley Hospital with his 7-year-old daughter.  

A short time later, according to a news release sent out early Saturday morning, the hospital called to say they had indeed admitted a little girl with a gunshot wound.

The family told KSL-TV’s Garna Mejia on Saturday the girl, identified as Zaydanielys Rodriguez, was in bed when a stray bullet came through the wall and hit her on the left side.

The family also told KSL-TV that they had moved to Utah from Puerto Rico 11 months ago. There is a GoFundMe page set up to take Rodriguez back home to Puerto Rico.

The girl’s father believes neighbors who were drinking accidentally fired a gun.

Wasatch County deputies responded both to the hospital and the 7-year-old’s home at the Wasatch Commons Apartments. 

When deputies arrived at the apartments, they heard a gunshot coming from inside or close to a neighboring apartment.  Deputies approached, and took three intoxicated individuals into custody.

Shooting results in death of 7-year-old

According to the news release, despite the best efforts of hospital staff, at about 11:30 p.m., the shooting resulted in the death of the 7-year-old girl.

Deputies would like to hear from anyone who might know anything about this case.  They are asking anyone who has information to call their tip line at 435-654-WCSO if you heard or are aware of any suspicious activity near Wasatch Commons on July 9, 2021.

The sheriff’s office has searched the area and considers it safe for residents at this time.  More information will be released as it is acquired and confirmed.

The Wasatch Back Major Crimes Task Force is investigating the case.  This is a developing story and will be updated.

Contributing: Becky Bruce, Simone Seikaly, Mark Jones, Garna Mejia

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UPDATE: Man accused of manslaughter in death of 7-year-old girl