US woman who fatally shot boyfriend in YouTube stunt gone wrong pleads guilty

Monalisa Perez (left) has pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. PHOTO: YOUTUBE/LA MONALISA

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - A 20-year-old Minnesota woman whose quest for Internet fame took a tragic turn when she fatally shot her boyfriend during a stunt apparently intended for YouTube has pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter.

In June, the woman, Monalisa Perez of Halstad, Minnesota, shot at a thick book that her boyfriend, Pedro Ruiz III, was holding, apparently believing that the bullet would not make it through the volume.

But the bullet penetrated the book and entered Ruiz's chest, fatally wounding the 22-year-old man. During the next several days, Perez and the YouTube videos she had previously posted with her boyfriend garnered much attention - but not for the reasons she had hoped.

On Friday, Perez entered her guilty plea, according to court records. Local media reports said that a plea agreement called for Perez to serve 180 days in jail and spend 10 years on supervised probation, though The Pioneer Press said a judge would have the final say on her sentence.

Reports also said that the plea agreement prevented Perez from making money off the video of the shooting and also barred her from possessing firearms for the rest of her life.

Prosecutors expect her to be sentenced in February. Had she been convicted of second-degree manslaughter at trial, Perez could have faced up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to US$20,000 (S$26,931.60), or both.

Instead, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported, Perez would go to jail for 30 days each year for the next three years and then become eligible to serve the rest of her six-month jail term on electronic home monitoring.

Mr James Brue, the Norman County attorney, did not return e-mails or phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday (Dec 19) night. The lawyer listed in court documents as representing Perez also could not be reached.

Over the course of several weeks last spring and summer, Perez and Ruiz filmed at least 18 videos of mostly harmless pranks that offered a window into the young couple's budding life together.

Those videos - of Ruiz climbing onto a tree branch and falling, for example, or of Perez feeding her boyfriend a doughnut covered in baby powder rather than powdered sugar - were then posted on a YouTube channel.

In one, Perez and her boyfriend dreamed out loud about what it would be like for them to become YouTube stars with more than 300,000 subscribers.

"The bigger we get, I'll be throwing parties," Ruiz said. "Why not?"

Then came the stunt that went horribly wrong.

On the evening of June 26, Perez told investigators that she shot Ruiz from about a foot away while he held a 1.5-inch-thick book to his chest. She described using a firearm that matched the gun found at the scene - a gold Desert Eagle .50-calibre pistol.

Ruiz had been "trying to get her" to fire the gun "for a while", Perez told investigators, according to court documents. They state that he had set up one camera on the back of a vehicle and another on a ladder to capture the stunt.

To help persuade her to pull the trigger, Ruiz had even shown Perez a book that he had previously shot himself, she told investigators. In that case, she said, the bullet had not gone all the way through the text.

"I really have no idea what they were thinking," Sheriff Jeremy Thornton of Norman County said in a previous interview. "I just don't understand the younger generation on trying to get their 15 minutes of fame."

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