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Othello man pleads not guilty to manslaughter

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | March 24, 2021 1:00 AM

RITZVILLE — An Othello man pleaded not guilty Monday in Adams County Superior Court to first-degree manslaughter in the death of his 4-year-old son Feb. 27.

Felipe Tapia-Perez, 27, is being held in the Adams County Jail on $50,000 bail.

An omnibus hearing, or reviewing of evidence, is scheduled for April 5. His trial is scheduled for April 27.

Tapia-Perez allegedly shot his son in the head. The boy died later that day.

Family and friends of the boy’s mother, Perla Arteaga-Ochoa, have started a GoFundMe account to help with funeral and medical expenses. As of Tuesday it had raised $5,585. People can donate at https://www.gofundme.com/f/2ao3fgdh6o?qid=831d6fc37d9f1fdaa1b8f9c5657c09b6.

Tapia-Perez had a gun he said he recently purchased in his car when he drove to Arteaga-Ochoa’s house Feb. 27 to pick up his three children, according to the statement of probable cause. The boy ran outside when he saw his father drive up, and was by the driver’s door.

Tapia-Perez said he was handling the weapon, which had been stolen, when it went off. The bullet broke the car window and struck the boy in the head.

Tapia-Perez told Othello Police officers he didn’t know the boy was standing beside the car. He also said he was unfamiliar with firearms, the probable cause statement said.

Othello police detective Jaime Mendoza said he consulted U.S. Border Patrol agents, who told him there was no record of Tapia-Perez legally entering the country. Tapia-Perez told police he came to the U.S as a 5-year-old and is not a U.S. citizen.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.