Prosecutors file new charges in shooting death of 7-year-old Heber City girl, suspect now faces first-degree murder count

Christopher Robert O'Connell. Photo: Wasatch County

HEBER CITY, Utah, July 13, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Charges against Christopher Robert O’Connell, accused of firing a bullet that traveled through two walls and mortally wounded Heber City 7-year-old Zaydanielys Rodriguez Irizarry in her bedroom, have been increased in seriousness and number.

O’Connell, 34, was originally accused of manslaughter, a second-degree felony. On Tuesday, that charge was upgraded to:

  • Murder, a first-degree felony.

Newly added charges are:

  • Felony discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony
  • Distribute/offer/arrange distribution of a controlled substance, a third-degree felony
  • Sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor

Existing charges that remain unchanged are:

  • Possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a second-degree felony
  • Intoxication, a class C misdemeanor
  • Possession of a controlled substance, marijuana/spice, a class B misdemeanor
  • Carrying a dangerous weapon under the influence of alcohol/drugs, a class B misdemeanor

O’Connell is being held without bail in the Wasatch County Jail.

Zaydanielys was in her room at the Wasatch Commons Apartments, No. 202, on Friday when she was struck by a bullet deputies say came from an apartment, No. 207, in a nearby building of the same complex, according to information from the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office.

Shooting scene

Officers of the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the shooting scene and found O’Connell and two other menm who were charged in the case but not with the fatal shooting.

“As law enforcement arrived on the scene, we made contact with Christopher near his residence, he was obviously intoxicated, he was non-compliant, with slurred speech,” O’Connell’s probable cause statement says. “I observed what appeared to be a firearm near his beltline and protruding from his T-shirt. As Christopher was placed in handcuffs he was searched. A handgun was located on his beltline, it was secured and seized for evidence.”

From left, Christopher Robert O’Connell, Colin David Howells, Trever Joe Pinter. Photos: Wasatch County

Detectives at the scene spoke to two women who were in apartment No. 207 with the three males. The women reported being sexually assaulted by Colin David Howells, 37, who was charged with sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, and intoxication, a class C misdemeanor.

Trever Joe Pinter, 21, was charged on suspicion of obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony, after he reportedly initially denied knowledge of a gun.

The women also stated that O’Connell had assaulted them, although he was not originally charged with that offense.

“The women also stated they observed Christopher pull a firearm out and wave it around while intoxicated, they asked him to put it away. One witness stated, they were incredibly intoxicated.”

O’Connell and Howells admitted to taking four pills of Clonazepam, which O’Connell provided.

“During a search of residence #205 with an approved search warrant, investigators located a green leafy substance, I was advised it was marijuana,” the men’s probable cause statements say. “I was advised by detectives on the scene the marijuana and firearms were in the same room and within reach of each other.”

Officers then located a bullet hole “that had gone through the wall and bedroom of Colin, continued north through the residence and into the next apartment complex and into the
child,” the statement says.

O’Connell’s initial court appearance has been scheduled for Wednesday.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay for funeral costs for Zaydanielys in the family’s native Puerto Rico.

Heber shooting
A GoFundMe page has been established for 7-year-old Zaydanielys Rodriguez Irizarry, the Heber City child who was fatally wounded in an apparent accidental shooting the evening of Friday, July 9, 2021. Photo: GoFundMe

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