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Drunk driver sentenced to prison for murder in American Canyon

Drunk driver sentenced to prison for murder in American Canyon


Oscar Tapia-Felix, 44, was sentenced in Napa County Superior Court to 15 years to life in state prison on Wednesday, two months after a jury found him guilty of murdering 69-year-old Rosalina Abalos Punieg Perez while driving drunk in America Canyon back in 2015.

Tapia-Felix was also convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and evading a peace officer causing death during his February trial.

Tapia Felix had a blood alcohol content of at least .20 percent – more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent – on the night of Oct. 24, 2015 when he got into his pickup truck, hit two parked cars and headed down a nearby embankment as he left Mi Zacatecas Family Restaurant in American Canyon.

As Tapia-Felix made it onto West American Canyon Road, an American Canyon Police officer turned onto the road from Highway 29. The officer’s dash camera picked up Tapia-Felix’s vehicle, its headlights off and a cloud of dirt still visible from where it had pulled onto the road, according to the probation officer’s report.

The officer caught up to Tapia-Felix near the intersection of Crawford Way and James Road where Tapia-Felix rolled through the 4-way stop at 40 mph, sparks flying from the truck’s undercarriage, the report said.

That’s when the officer turned on his emergency lights. Tapia-Felix continued to drive recklessly, running another stop sign, driving through a dirt center divide, and speeding up to 85 mph while driving along Highway 29.

Noticing heavier traffic, the officer turned on his sirens, but Tapia-Felix continued northbound and blew through a red light at Eucalyptus Drive, crashing into a minivan and killing its driver and only occupant, Rosalina Perez.

Perez was pronounced dead at the scene. Her death was caused by blunt force trauma. According to the probation report, she had a broken skull, collar bone, arm and leg as well as broken ribs, a lacerated lung and surface bleeding on the brain.

Perez, a registered nurse, was heading home from her job at Napa State Hospital.

Tapia-Felix was transported to Queen of the Valley Medical Center where he stayed until Dec. 10, 2015. When deputies discovered that Tapia-Felix had been discharged from the Queen, they contacted multiple acute rehab facilities in an attempt to locate him. They eventually tracked him down by pinging his wife’s cellphone, which placed the couple in Phoenix.

Tapia-Felix was observed by local law enforcement outside of his wife’s residence and detained during a traffic stop shortly after. Tapia-Felix was extradited back to California, where he was booked at the Napa County jail on Jan. 5, 2016.

Tapia-Felix said that he didn’t go to Arizona to escape prosecution, but went because that’s where his family was living, according to the probation officer’s report. Tapia-Felix said that he didn’t even know what had happened when he woke up in the hospital and couldn’t move.

He reported having broken both femurs in addition to having a broken rib, arm and pelvic bone. He said that when he learned about what he had done, he started crying. Tapia-Felix said that he expected to be questioned while he was in the hospital, but no one ever came, according to the probation report.

The jury found Tapia-Felix guilty after one day of deliberations. Tapia-Felix had a history of drunk driving, including two DUI convictions in Arizona and one in Napa County.

“You never realize how one night can change your life,” Tapia-Felix said, according to the probation report. Although he knew he had a problem with alcohol, he said he never accepted the fact that he was an alcoholic and never thought that he should stop drinking forever.

Tapia-Felix said that he didn’t mean to hurt anyone, that he made a mistake and that he knows he deserves to be punished, according to the probation report.

“I can’t put into words how much the loss of my mother has negatively impacted the lives of my father and I,” said Phillip Perez, Perez’s only child, in a victim impact statement.

After his mother didn’t answer her cellphone, he said he called her at work, where another nurse connected him to someone at the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. “I was initially in disbelief,” he said. “I didn’t believe what I was hearing. It felt like a piece of me was stolen.”

Phillip Perez said that his mother not only supported him and his father, but also sent money to many family members back in the Philippines to help with tuition, school supplies, food and clothing.

“The loss of my mother has changed every aspect of my life, my father’s life, and the future of my entire family,” he said.

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Maria Sestito is the former Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She now writes for the Register as a freelancer.

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