Ve­hic­u­lar homi­cide sus­pect on the run

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Pa­trick Coo­ley The Colum­bus Dis­patch pcoo­[email protected]­ @Pa­trick­a­coo­ley

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 or through the free P3 Tips mo­bile app.

All tips to Crime Stoppers are anony­mous.

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