Chicago man charged 5 months after calling 911, saying he killed girlfriend: prosecutors

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - A man who allegedly called 911 in October and said he shot his girlfriend at his Portage Park apartment was ordered held without bail Friday after being charged with her death.

James Culpepper, 37, faces a first-degree murder charge in the Oct. 28 shooting of 21-year-old Nadia Manjarrez, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Culpepper called 911 about 10 p.m. the night of the shooting and said he had shot Manjarrez at his apartment in the 4800 block of West Hutchinson, prosecutors said.

When first responders arrived, they found Manjarrez lying on a couch with a gunshot wound to her right cheek and a .40-caliber Glock handgun on the living room table, prosecutors said. Culpepper told officers to take off his sweater because it smelled like gunpowder.

Manjarrez, who also lived in Portage Park, was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center and pronounced dead, police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said. An autopsy found she died of the gunshot wound, but did not immediately rule on her manner of death pending further investigation.

The same weekend Manjarrez was shot, a 16-year-old girl was also killed in a shooting that was believed to be accidental.

In a Facebook post, Ald. John Arena (45th) wrote: “Over the weekend, Nadia Manjarrez was fatally wounded after her boyfriend allegedly shot her by accident.

“It is one of two fatalities that occurred this past weekend in our city due to careless handling of a firearm. In the wake of this tragedy, I want to remind residents of the best practices for handling and securing firearms. These powerful weapons should be treated with the same level of consideration for the amount of damage that they can cause.”

Culpepper was taken in for questioning but was released days later without being charged, Chicago Police said. Area North detectives continued to investigate.

The medical examiner’s office ruled Manjarrez’s death a homicide on Nov. 19.

Culpepper, who was most recently living in Aurora, was taken into custody again Wednesday in south suburban Matteson, according to police records. He appeared in court Thursday on the charge and was denied bail.

Prosecutors said a witness told police they heard the couple arguing the night of the shooting and a female scream, “Why are you doing this?”

Culpepper had a history of violence in his relationship with Manjarrez, which had escalated prior to the shooting, prosecutors claimed. Days before the shooting, Culpepper broke her phone during an argument. She also told friends that she would hide his gun when he was intoxicated, because he had previously pointed it at her and threatened to kill her.

Prosecutors said Culpepper demonstrated violence in past relationships; they accused him of holding a gun to his then-girlfriend’s head in 2009, and sending her hundreds of text messages saying he would kill her children if she called police.

When that girlfriend did call police, Culpepper sent her 64 text messages and made 42 threatening phone calls to her while she spoke to officers. A second prior girlfriend said he would use his gun to scare her when they argued.

According to court records, Culpepper was arrested for domestic battery in 2003, but the complaint was later amended to battery, for which he received a one-year sentence of supervision.

Culpepper’s next court date was scheduled for April 4.

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