Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sentenced to life for murder, woman thanks Hillsborough court workers

TAMPA — Just sentenced to life in prison for premeditated murder, Venecia DePaula smiled politely as she was escorted out of the courtroom. She turned to bailiffs and court personnel and addressed them with the soft, sweet voice she'd used all week.

"Thank you very much," she said as her trial ended Thursday.

The same woman had killed the man she said she loved, the father of her unborn child. She stood over him as he slept, held a 9mm Beretta semiautomatic an inch away from his head and pulled the trigger.

There was never a doubt she did it — her attorney conceded as much. The trial this week hinged on her state of mind in the early morning hours of Aug. 3, 2009.

Did she plan to kill 29-year-old Felipe Perez?

They were together for a few years and she was six months pregnant. But in his mind, they were no longer a couple. Unable to pay rent on his own, he stayed with DePaula but he had a new girlfriend, a blond he'd met at the gym.

The former couple still traded text messages expressing unresolved drama.

"I'm feeling bad for everything that's happened," Perez wrote to DePaula that July. "Why were you unfaithful to me? I'm not good as a man?"

In a response, DePaula asked him if he felt bad when he was having sex with other women.

She walked into a gun shop the day after that exchange and paid cash for a revolver. Unwilling to wait for approval for that gun, she found another in a newspaper classified ad and paid cash for it the night of Aug. 2.

She killed Perez hours later.

Her attorney, Bryant Camareno, argued she bought the gun to commit suicide. He cited text messages she sent making provisions in case anything happened to her. In opening statements, he had told jurors DePaula was depressed and blacked out when she fired the gun.

But DePaula decided not to take the stand, so jurors did not hear that story from her.

They didn't see any reaction from her when she heard she was guilty of first-degree murder.

There was no reaction, either, when Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles said, "This was a cold and brutal crime. You took a life. Now, the law in Florida requires that you pay with the remainder of your life."

But two other women did cry — DePaula's mother, left to raise her daughter's children; and Perez's wife, Jadie Serra, long separated from him but still a friend.

Serra said, "I feel bad for her kids. I feel bad for his kids."

She is haunted by one of the last things her husband told her, days before he died. It's something jurors never heard from prosecutors, kept from using it by laws that govern evidence.

Perez told his wife his ex-girlfriend had told him something:

She was going to kill him.

Times photographer Melissa Lyttle contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Sentenced to life for murder, woman thanks Hillsborough court workers 02/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011 11:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Loggerhead sea turtle found in Islamorada resident's pool

    Wildlife

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on Monday, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys.

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on June 22, 2017, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys. [Photo from video]

  2. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  3. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players

    Blogs

    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  4. She doesn't care if you accept her, as long as you respect her

    Human Interest

    Mary Jane Taylor finds strength walking quietly among the dead.

    Mary Jane Taylor,18, visits Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa when she is feeling low. "When I hit my low points in life I go the the graveyard," she says. "people are afraid of the graveyard. I love the graveyard." The transgender teen recently graduated from Jefferson High School. She is  enrolled in summer classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville studying international business. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida, attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times)
  5. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — An investigative report, released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, into the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza included largely the same narrative prosecutors released this month that ruled the shooting a "justifiable homicide."

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.