Saturday, August 4, 2007

Man indicted in girlfriend's murder

Last Edited: Friday, 03 Aug 2007, 8:34 PM EDT
Created: Saturday, 04 Aug 2007, 7:13 AM EDT

BRADENTON - A 48-year-old Manatee County man arrested in June for killing his longtime girlfriend could receive the death penalty for his crime.

Felipe C. Lopez was arraigned in a Bradenton courtroom Friday on one count of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Celsa Bautista. The couple was involved in a long-term relationship that produced four children. Investigators with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office say Lopez shot and killed Bautista, 36, in the early morning hours of June 6.

At least two of the couple's children witnessed the crime.

Friday's hearing is the first step that will allow prosecutors to purse the death penalty against Lopez. Relatives of the victim, including the couple's teenage children, allege Lopez threatened Bautisa for years. He was arrested twice on domestic battery charges in the past two years but in both instances the charges were dropped.

Bautista attempted to obtain restraining orders against Lopez four times since 2004 according to Manatee County court documents. Family members say he was kicked out of their Palmetto home for good in December, six months before the murder.

A motion hearing on the case is scheduled for August 24.

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