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3 arrested after bullet fired through apartment wall kills 7-year-old girl

A 7-year-old girl died late Friday of a gunshot wound in Heber City after police say a drunken man fired a weapon through the wall of a nearby apartment.

A 7-year-old girl died late Friday of a gunshot wound in Heber City after police say a drunken man fired a weapon through the wall of a nearby apartment. (Brandon Whitworth, KSL TV)

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HEBER CITY — Three men were arrested Saturday in the death of a 7-year-old girl who was shot and killed Friday night in her home.

One of the men who was described as "incredibly intoxicated" is suspected of firing a bullet through the wall and into a nearby apartment, hitting the child who later died at a hospital.

The girl's family identified her as Zaydanielys Rodriguez. She attended J.R. Smith Elementary School in Heber City. The family moved from Puerto Rico to Heber City just 11 months ago.

Christopher Robert Oconnell, 34, was booked into the Wasatch County Jail for investigation of manslaughter, carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence, possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, possession of marijuana and intoxication.

The girl's father called 911 about 10:35 p.m. Friday as he was taking her to Heber Valley Hospital. The girl had a gunshot wound and died from her injuries about 11:30 p.m., according to a statement from the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office. Her name has not yet been released, nor where the child was hit.

When deputies arrived at the Wasatch Commons Apartments, 2790 N. Commons Blvd., an "obviously intoxicated" Oconnell had a firearm near his beltline that was protruding from his T-shirt, according to a police booking affidavit. Deputies say his speech was slurred and he was "noncompliant."

He told deputies he had consumed alcohol and four Clonazepam pills and had given the same quantity to his friend and co-worker, Colin David Howells, the affidavit states.

Deputies searched his apartment and reported locating marijuana and firearms in the same room. "They located a bullet hole that had gone through the wall and bedroom of Colin, continued north through the residence and into the next apartment complex and into the child," the police affidavit says.

Neighbor Trevor Joe Pinter told deputies Oconnell and Howells knocked loudly on his door after 10 p.m. Friday and went into his apartment. Two women arrived at the apartment shortly afterward.

"The women also stated they observed Christopher pull a firearm out and wave it around while intoxicated," another affidavit states. "They asked him to put it away."

In addition, the women said Oconnell and Howells sexually assaulted them at Pinter's apartment, according to the reports.

A man renting a room in the apartment where the girl was shot said about five minutes after the girl's father quickly left the residence, two men stood in the doorway of the apartment and asked him questions about the children. He said one man was holding a gun in his hand as they spoke and he could smell the odor of alcohol, the affidavits state. Police said they believe those men were Oconnell and Howells.

Howells, 36, was arrested for investigation of sexual battery and intoxication and Pinter, 21, was booked for investigation of obstruction of justice after police say he initially provided them with deceptive information.

Counseling and grief support services are being offered at Zaydanielys's school for students and staff, the Wasatch County School District said.

Contributing: Linda Williams

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Lisi Merkley is a news producer for Prior to joining KSL in May 2021, she was editor in chief of The Daily Universe at Brigham Young University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications and Spanish.


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