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Heber man charged with murder in shooting death of 7-year-old girl

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Posted at 10:02 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-14 00:16:44-04

HEBER CITY, Utah — The man arrested over the weekend on suspicion of firing the bullet that went into a neighboring apartment and killed a 7-year-old girl has been charged with murder.

Christopher Robert O'Connell, 34, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of manslaughter and other alleged crimes. Police say evidence indicated he fired a handgun at some point Friday night. They believe the bullet flew into the home of 7-year-old Zaydanielys Rodriguez Irizarry and her family, striking and killing the young girl.

READ: Family mourns loss of girl killed by stray bullet in Heber City

The Wasatch County Attorney's Office filed charges Tuesday, and O'Connell's are heavier than initially booked for.

O'Connell is charged with first-degree felony murder and third-degree felony discharge of a firearm in connection with Irizarry's death.

He is also charged with multiple counts not directly connected to the shooting, but ones that were discovered during the investigation. They are:

  • Possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person (third-degree felony)
  • Distribution of a controlled substance (third-degree felony)
  • Sexual battery (class-A misdemeanor)
  • Possession or use of a controlled substance (class-B misdemeanor)
  • Carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence (class-B misdemeanor)
  • Intoxication (class-C misdemeanor)

As police investigated the girl's death, they say they learned that O'Connell and his friend Colin David Howells had sexually assaulted two women who they were hanging out with at an apartment nearby. They also found a handgun on him, found marijuana in the apartment, and he admitted to drinking alcohol and taking Clonazepam that night.

Howells, 36, was also officially charged Tuesday. However, he is not charged with Irizarry's death.

He is charged with a third-degree felony count of obstructing justice, class-A misdemeanor sexual battery, and class-C misdemeanor intoxication.

Trever Joe Pinter, 21, was initially booked on suspicion of obstructing justice, but it does not appear he has been charged as of Tuesday.

Pinter and Howells have been released on bail, but O'Connell is being held without bail.