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Othello man pleads not guilty to manslaughter charges

RITZVILLE – An Othello man pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of his son, in Adams County Superior Court on Monday, Mar. 22.

Felipe Tapia-Perez, 27, remains in the Adams County Jail on $50,000 bail following the death of his 4-year-old son. His trial is scheduled for April 27.

According to court documents, Tapia-Perez had driven to the home of Perla J. Arteaga-Ochoa, the mother of his three children, to pick up his kids for the weekend on Feb. 27. Tapia-Perez was sitting in his vehicle and allegedly handling a gun when the gun went off and shot his son, identified only as J.T.A., in the head. Tapia-Perez and Arteaga-Ochoa drove their son to the hospital, where he was transported to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Spokane and died later that day.

According to court documents, U.S. Border Patrol agent Jason Pearson reported there is no record of Tapia-Perez lawfully being in the United States. Tapia-Perez stated he was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States when he was five, but never became a U.S. citizen.

Tapia-Perez reported to law enforcement officers he knew he was not allowed to possess a firearm, but purchased the Colt Woodman .22 caliber pistol the previous day, Feb. 26, "for protection." Tapia-Perez claimed to be sitting in a parked vehicle in Moses Lake when he was approached by a man wanting to sell the firearm. Tapia-Perez said he purchased it because "he liked the gun and it was cheap." The gun, valued at around $1200, was listed as stolen Feb. 26, by the Spokane Police Department.

Tapia-Perez told law enforcement agents he paid cash for the 2009 Chevrolet Aveo he was driving, but had it registered in his sister's name because he couldn't find an insurance company that would insure him, due to his driving record.

According to court documents, Tapia-Perez said while he was sitting in the vehicle waiting for his kids, he was handling the gun and touching a lever on the side when it went off. Tapia-Perez said he realized he had shot J.T.A. in the head when Arteaga-Ochoa screamed that he had killed her son.

Tapia-Perez was wearing an electronic home monitoring device around his ankle at the time of the arrest. According to Othello Police Department staff, the ankle bracelet was in place because of a DUI.

Tapia-Perez is being represented by public defender Scudder, Barrett, Jonas; with lead attorney Kyle Smith retained.

Author Bio

Katie Teachout, Editor

Author photo

Katie Teachout is the editor of the Ritzville Adams County Journal. She has more than a decade experience covering Eastern Washington, including the Upper Kittitas Valley, the Methow Valley and Okanogan and Ferry counties.


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