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Tampa woman on trial over killing boyfriend while pregnant

Venecia DePaula, 32, who faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, listens to court proceedings Tuesday. She is accused of shooting and killing her boyfriend, who was also involved with another woman, in August 2009 while she was pregnant.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Venecia DePaula, 32, who faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, listens to court proceedings Tuesday. She is accused of shooting and killing her boyfriend, who was also involved with another woman, in August 2009 while she was pregnant.

TAMPA — He was asleep, curled on the couch in his underwear, when the pregnant woman pulled the trigger.

Venecia DePaula, 32, faces life in prison if convicted this week of first-degree murder.

Her attorney admits she shot the man she considered her boyfriend. "She blacked out," Bryant Camareno told jurors Tuesday during opening statements in Hillsborough Circuit Court. "She fired the gun."

But she didn't plan to do it, he said.

Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon insists she did.

"She was hurt. She was jealous. He was slipping away from her," Harmon said.

To judge her state of mind early the morning of Aug. 3, 2009, jurors will learn about her relationship with 29-year-old victim Felipe Perez, a former baseball player with a Baltimore Orioles minor league affiliate — a man with more than one woman in his life:

There was his wife, separated but still a friend. She had agreed to remain married on paper so he could bring his son to Florida from the Dominican Republic.

There was his new girlfriend in Sarasota, a woman he'd met at the gym and started dating in the early summer of 2009.

And then there was DePaula, who was with him for a few years and, according to her lawyer, was pregnant with his baby.

Perez, who delivered appliances, lived with DePaula at the Foxcroft Apartments off Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. He told his wife that he and the pregnant woman were no longer a couple.

The pregnant woman seemed to disagree.

One morning a few weeks before Perez died, the phone rang over and over, 20 to 30 times, at his new girlfriend's home. He was there. The two woke up and Perez recognized DePaula's name on the caller ID, Harmon said.

The new girlfriend eventually answered twice, but heard nothing and hung up. Then, the third time, a woman spoke.

"He's my boyfriend," the woman said. "He's not your boyfriend.

"I'm still in love with him. You need to stop seeing him."

At the end of July, DePaula paid cash for a revolver at a gun shop but, by law, had to wait three days to claim it, store employee Miguel Encarnacion testified. When she returned, her approval process wasn't completed.

She wound up buying a gun Aug. 2 from a newspaper classified ad. Seller William Abourjilie Jr., who testified Tuesday, said he showed her how to use it.

Her attorney said she bought the gun to hurt herself. She was despondent, alone.

But she wasn't the one who got hurt.

Perez was out with a friend that night, playing dominoes, talking, dancing. He ended up at a sports bar. He would come and leave DePaula's apartment as he pleased, her attorney said. When he arrived early in the morning, she was lying in bed with her 4-year-old daughter.

"She waited for him to be asleep," prosecutor Harmon alleged. "She waited for him to be helpless. She waited for him to be defenseless.

"And then she took this gun, this 9mm semiautomatic handgun, and she took the muzzle and put it within an inch of his head, and she shot him.

"And she shot to kill."

She got her daughter and began to drive to Palm Beach County, where her family lived, the prosecutor said.

On the way, she spoke to her friend Janet Prieto, who testified in court Tuesday that DePaula told her: "I did something stupid. … God is not going to forgive me."

She walked into a police station and uttered words that a community service officer and a corporal recalled for the jury: "I shot my boyfriend" and "I think I killed him."

She gave birth while in jail, her attorney said, and her mother took in DePaula's young daughter and the baby she shared with Perez.

Before her confession, but after she'd shot him, DePaula spoke to someone else — Perez's new girlfriend, who had called his phone. The prosecutor told the jury what she said.

DePaula told her he was sleeping, and she told her this:

"You're not his girlfriend. I'm his girlfriend."

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Tampa woman on trial over killing boyfriend while pregnant 02/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 11:03pm]
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