Authorities think a woman accused of driving drunk and killing another woman in Ohio earlier this year may be on the run here in Florida.
Heather Tapia was recently on the U.S. Marshals Office’s 10 most wanted fugitives list.
James Tapia, who lives in North Port, knows police are looking for his 47-year-old daughter, but says there’s “nothing I can do to help.”
Tapia claims his daughter has not shown up at his door.
What if she did?
"Well, I wouldn’t accept her,” he said.
Officials say Heather Tapia killed a woman while driving drunk in Columbus, Ohio, this past July. But Tapia skipped bail and hasn’t been seen since.
Her father says he hasn’t heard from his daughter in more than a year but knows officials are looking for her.
“I received a phone call from up north saying that she was in the papers, that’s all I know,” he said. “That’s what I know.”
The U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force is focusing resources in Florida, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office tells our Ohio affiliate that they believe Tapia may be in the Tampa Bay area because she has friends and family here.
We showed several of Tapia’s photos to other people in the same North Port neighborhood where her father lives.
Neighbor Cody Alcorn looked at the pictures and said, “No, I don’t think I’ve seen that lady before.”
Tony Freitas, who lives in the same neighborhood, didn’t think he recognized the photos either.
“If I do see her now, I mean I will know, but no, I have not seen her,” he said.
Neighbors have good reason to keep an eye out for Tapia. She’s been convicted eight times of driving under the influence, arguably making her a menace wherever she is.
In July, deputies said her blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit when she caused a wreck that killed 39-year old Audrey Gartin.
This week in Arizona, where Gartin spent most of her life, they planted a tree in her memory and spread her ashes there.
“Heather Tapia needs to 'fess up about what happened and stop running,” said Gartin’s aunt Roselee Anzalone. “Let this family have some peace about what happened to Audrey because she didn’t deserve this at all.”
The Marshals Service says it’s also been looking for Tapia in Jacksonville, where they’ve gotten some tips and know she’s got friends. But so far, haven’t found her.
While they hope someone either there or in the Bay Area will recognize Tapia’s picture and turn her in, her father hopes she’ll do that on her own.
“Stand up for what you did,” said James Tapia.
If you think you have seen Heather Tapia, you are asked to reach out to the U.S. Marshals Central Ohio field office at (614) 469-5540.
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