Make us your home page

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 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

  1. Blake Snell shines as Rays beat Mariners to end skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell delivered the best outing of his young career and the Rays offense continued its home run-hitting ways for a 3-0 victory Sunday against the Mariners in front of 13,354 at Tropicana Field.

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) with starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) after the top of the seventh inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  2. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries


    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  3. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week


    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]
  4. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91


    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  5. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years


    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501