Update: Suspect faces manslaughter charge in Heber girl’s shooting death

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

HEBER, Utah, July 11, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Court documents are shedding new light on the shooting death of a 7-year-old Heber girl, and the three men arrested the night of the deadly incident, one of whom has been charged with felony manslaughter.

Meanwhile, the child’s shooting has struck an emotional cord in the community, with a GoFundMe account established in her name raising more than $20,000 in a matter of hours Saturday.

Police investigators believe 7-year-old Zaydanielys Rodriguez Irizarry was fatally wounded Friday night after a shot was fired from a neighboring apartment into her family’s residence.

According to probable cause statements filed in Fourth District Court “the Wasatch County dispatch center received a report of a 7-year old that had been shot by a firearm in apartment #202. The 7-year-old victim was transported to the Heber Valley Medical Center by her parents. While at the hospital, the 7-year-old died from her injuries.”

A statement issued by the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office says when first responders began arriving at the Wasatch Commons Apartments where the family lived, “they heard a gunshot coming from inside or close to a neighboring apartment.”

Court documents state that when one of the deputies approached the apartment, he found an “obviously intoxicated” man later identified as Christopher O’Connell.

“I observed what appeared to be a firearm near his beltline and protruding from his T-shirt,” wrote Heber City Police Officer Blaine Rigby, who arrested the 34-year-old.

The documents go on to show that, in addition to O’Connell and two other men, there were two women inside the apartment who were interviewed by detectives.

In his affidavit, Officer Rigby writes the women told the detectives they were “sexually assaulted” in the apartment by an “incredibly intoxicated” O’Connell as well as another man, 37-year-old Colin Howells.

“I was informed Christopher was grabbing one female’s buttocks and grinding on her,” he writes. A second affidavit says the same thing about Howells.

Rigby also notes that the women “observed Christopher pull a firearm out and wave it around.”

During a later interview, O’Connell allegedly told the officer both he and Howells had each taken four pills of Clonazepam, a prescription sedative used to treat seizures and panic attacks.  The officer says the two men were also drinking.

Documents show O’Connell was booked on numerous charges, including manslaughter, carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person.

Howells was booked for alleged sexual battery and intoxication.

A third man, 21-year-old Trevor Pinter, was booked on a charge of obstruction of justice. Police say he initially told investigators he was with both men in the apartment at all times and had not seen either with a gun. Investigators claim Pinter later recanted, telling police he had indeed seen O’Connell waving the gun.

Court documents reveal O’Connell is currently being held without bail after Judge Denise M. Porter ruled that if released he would “constitute a substantial danger to any other individual or to the community, or is likely to flee the jurisdiction of the court….”

Bail for Pinter and Howells was set at $1,500 and $2,500 respectively.

Gephardt Daily will update the story as more information is made available.


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