BRADENTON — A jury found Felipe Lopez guilty of first-degree murder Friday in the 2007 shooting death of the mother of his four children.
Lopez, 50, shot and killed 36-year-old Celsa Bautista, with whom he had a long-standing relationship, in front of her home. A jury of eight women and four men confirmed their verdict as Lopez showed no emotion.
Manatee Circuit Judge Debra Riva sentenced him to life in prison without possibility of parole. He has 30 days to appeal.
Assistant State Attorney Art Brown told the jury this week that at the time of Bautista’s slaying, she had kicked Lopez out of her home and the couple had been estranged. Lopez had made contact with Bautista and her family members before the shooting and made death threats, Brown said.
Brown said on June 5, 2007, Lopez confronted Bautista in her driveway as she came home from work and shot her twice in the head, before unsuccessfully trying to shoot himself.
After the shooting, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies found Lopez hiding in woods near Bautista’s house with a gunshot wound to his jaw. Lopez’s attorney Richard Reinhart argued that Bautista first attacked Lopez, shooting him in the face, and his client wrestled the gun from her and shot Bautista in self-defense.
Lopez testified on his own behalf during his trial and painted a picture of having a good relationship prior to the shooting, even after two of his children testified he verbally and physically abused her. Lopez, a convicted felon, also went to jail on a domestic battery charge the March before the shooting, Brown told the jury in closing arguments.
“He told us of this great relationship, but none of what he told us is supported by the facts,” Brown said.
Reinhart during closing arguments pointed to the fact that the domestic violence charge was later dropped, and said the gunshot injury to his client’s face proved he did not shoot himself from a close distance because there was no gunpowder residue on his face.