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