Man who caused 7-year-old’s death by shooting through a wall sent to prison

Mar 5, 2023, 9:15 PM | Updated: 9:16 pm
The Wasatch County Courthouse in Heber City is pictured on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Deseret News/Je...
The Wasatch County Courthouse in Heber City is pictured on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Deseret News/Jeffrey D. Allred)
(Deseret News/Jeffrey D. Allred)

HEBER CITY, Utah — A Heber City man was recently sent to prison after pleading guilty to recklessly causing the death of a 7-year-old girl by firing a gun through a wall in Wasatch County in 2021.

Christopher Robert O’Connell, 36, pleaded guilty in December to manslaughter, which was reduced to a second-degree felony in exchange for his plea.

He said in a plea statement had been “drinking heavily” and taking prescription drugs at home with his roommate on July 9, 2021.

“I brought out my handgun, which I thought was unloaded, having previously checked it. Unfortunately, there was still a bullet in the chamber and, while recklessly ‘dry’ firing, the gun went off,” he said.

Zaydanielys Rodriguez, the girl who was hit and killed by the bullet, was asleep in her bedroom.

Her father, Danny Rodriguez, has said that his daughter was a student at J.R. Smith Elementary and loved softball. The family had lived in Heber City for less than a year, and raised money to send her body back to Puerto Rico, their home.

Fourth District Judge Jennifer A. Mabey sentenced O’Connell to between one and 15 years in the Utah State Prison on Feb. 15.

He was initially charged with murder, but the charge was amended to manslaughter.

Each other count against O’Connell was dismissed as part of a plea deal — including felony discharge of a firearm, possession of a dangerous weapon as a restricted person, and distributing a controlled substance, all third-degree felonies, in addition to sexual battery, possession of a controlled substance, and carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence and intoxication, all misdemeanors.

Charges filed against O’Connell’s roommate were dropped by prosecutors in December.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


[FILE] Jail Handcuffs (KSL-TV)...
Michael Houck

Police: Two arrested for murder of 17-year-old during THC deal in Tooele

A Utah couple is in police custody for fatally shooting a 17-year-old during a sale of THC cartridges early Sunday morning.
23 hours ago
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iow...
Associated Press

Trump indictment ends decades of perceived invincibility

Trump, who is the early frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is expected to turn himself in Tuesday. He faces charges including at least one felony offense related to hush money payments to women during his 2016 campaign.
2 days ago
Two people North Park police say are connected to a bomb threat in a Walmart on Friday, March 31, 2...
Gabrielle Shiozawa

Police seek help identifying 2 accused of making bomb threat at North Logan Walmart

Police are asking for the public's help in identifying two young men they believe made a bomb threat at the North Logan Walmart, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of store patrons and workers Friday afternoon.
2 days ago
Mugshot of 26-year-old Tryston Robert Erickson. (Grand County Sheriff's Office, Colorado)...
Pat Reavy

Spanish Fork man took photos of parents after killing them, charges say

A Spanish Fork man currently in custody in Colorado was charged Friday with two counts of aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of his mother and stepfather in their home.
2 days ago
Flowers and a sign reading "HONOR 58" hang on a fence outside the Las Vegas Village across from Man...
Rio Yamat and Ken Ritter, Associated Press

FBI documents give new view into Las Vegas shooter’s mindset

A trove of FBI documents made public this week offers a new view into high-stakes gambler Stephen Paddock’s mindset before he carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern America.
2 days ago
(Salt Lake City Police Department)...
Madison Swenson

Two men with outstanding warrants arrested during SLC traffic stop

Two people were arrested this week after they were found to have outstanding warrants during a traffic stop. One of them also had a gun and illegal drugs on him at the time of the arrest.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
Man who caused 7-year-old’s death by shooting through a wall sent to prison