Vehicular homicide suspect on the run
Heather Tapia fled after a July car crash that resulted in the death of her passenger. Investigators are unable to find her nearly seven months later.
Tapia, 48, of the Northeast Side, is charged with vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated in the death of Audrey Gartin, 39, of Tempe, Arizona.
Now Gartin’s family and Central Ohio Crime Stoppers are offering a reward for anyone who can provide information that leads to Tapia’s arrest.
Tapia turned her car onto Cleveland Avenue from Morse Road early in the morning of July 14, driving into the path of an oncoming minivan, a police report said. The minivan collided with the passenger’s side of Tapia’s car, injuring both women inside. Paramedics took Gartin, the passenger, to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Tapia was also taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries, and a blood test was taken that showed a 0.138blood alcohol level. In Ohio, at 0.08 percent a driver is presumed impaired.
Tapia fled before she was indicted, said Jon Compson, Columbus Police Crime Stoppers coordinator.
Investigators could only identify two of her relatives, neither of whom knew her location, and no one has used her Social Security number since the indictment, Compson said.
Nothing can bring back Gartin, her aunt Phyllis Holly said in a phone interview, but Tapia’s arrest could offer a small amount of closure.
“(Tapia) has run away and isn’t dealing with it at all,” said Holly, who lives in Chicago. “It just doubles the pain” of Gartin’s death.
Holly said her niece moved to Columbus from Arizona after Gartin’s mother, and Holly’s sister, died about two years ago. Gartin felt lost and was looking for a place to start over, Holly said.
Holly isn’t sure how Gartin met Tapia, but she suspects it was through a job.
By offering a reward and reaching out to Crime Stoppers, Holly said she hopes to keep the case in the public’s consciousness.
“It’s getting to be an older story, and we’re trying to keep it out there, so if people have tips” they’ll call the police, she said.
Anyone with information about Tapia’s whereabouts is asked to call Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-461TIPS, or submit a tip online at www.stopcrime.org or through the free P3 Tips mobile app.
All tips to Crime Stoppers are anonymous.