Sentenced to life for murder, woman thanks Hillsborough court
By Alexandra Zayas -
February 25, 2011
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
"Thank you very much," she said as her trial
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
Perez told his wife his ex-girlfriend had told
She was going to kill him.
Tampa woman on trial over killing boyfriend while pregnant
By Alexandra Zayas -
February 23, 2011
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 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
And then there was DePaula, who was with him
for a few years and, according to her lawyer, was pregnant with
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
"He's my boyfriend," the woman said. "He's not
"I'm still in love with him. You need to stop
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
"You're not his girlfriend. I'm his
Defense: Suspect in Tampa
slaying 'blacked out'
By Tom Brennan - The Tampa Tribune
February 22, 2011
There is no question as to who killed Phillipe
Perez in August 2009.
His girlfriend, Venecia Depaula, admits to
firing a single shot into his head while he slept curled up on the
Jurors must decide whether the shooting was
premeditated, a decision that will determine whether Depaula
spends the rest of her life in prison.
In his opening statement today, Assistant State
Attorney Scott Harmon told jurors Depaula, 32, acted in a pique of
jealousy because she found out Perez was married and was seeing
"It was because Mr. Perez was slipping away
from her, because of her hurt and because of her jealousy," Harmon
said. "When he was at her mercy, she showed him none."
But defense attorney Bryant Camareno said
Depaula was depressed because she had left her family in Palm
Beach County to be with Perez and was pregnant with his child when
she found out about the other women.
"She blacked out. She fired the gun," Camareno
told jurors. "She had no idea what she had just done."
Deputies found Perez's body in the couple's
apartment at the Foxcroft Apartments, 3817 Tudor Court, on Aug. 3,
Depaula had called a friend, telling her, "I
think I've done something very bad," and saying she had shot
Perez. The friend called authorities.
After dropping off her 4-year-old daughter with
her mother in Palm Beach County, Depaula turned herself in. She
was charged with first-degree murder.
Camareno said his client never tried to hide
what she had done.
But Harmon said Depaula tried to buy a revolver
from a pawnshop days before the shooting. When the background
check was delayed, he said, she bought a Beretta automatic through
a newspaper ad.
"Nothing was going to stop Ms. Depaula from
murdering Phillipe Perez," he said.
Camareno said Depaula bought the gun for
"She bought the gun to kill herself," he said.
"She was alone. She had no one."
The trial is expected to last through the week.