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Dean Kapsalis sentenced to life in prison for racist road-rage attack that killed Henry Tapia

Dean Kapsalis listens during his sentencing at Middlesex Superior Court, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Woburn, Mass. Kapsalis, convicted in the 2021 killing of Henry Tapia, a Black man, following a road rage encounter in which he yelled a racial slur, was sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole after 15 years. (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool)

A Massachusetts man found guilty of mowing down and killing a black man after calling him the n-word during a 2021 road-rage attack was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison.

Dean Kapsalis, 56, of Hudson, was convicted by a jury last year of second-degree murder, violation of constitutional rights and other charges in the racially motivated slaying of 34-year-old Henry Tapia.

Tapia and Kapsalis got into an argument on Jan. 19, 2021, in Belmont, Massachusetts, after Kapsalis failed to use a turn signal, investigators said.

As Tapia started to walk back toward his Honda Civic after having words with the other driver, Kapsalis, who is white, called him the n-word. He then got into his Dodge Dakota pickup truck and plowed into Tapia.

Tapia was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Kapsalis initially fled the scene of the crash but turned himself in to the police about 30 minutes later.

During his trial in May 2023, Kapsalis unsuccessfully argued that Tapia’s death was an accident.

He later made a failed attempt to have his conviction reduced to a manslaughter, which ended up delaying his sentencing by nearly 8 months.

“The murder of Henry Tapia is a senseless tragedy fueled by hate and anger,” District Attorney Marian Ryan said last year after the conviction. “The fact that some of the last words Henry Tapia heard were a horrific racial insult meant to intimidate and threaten him based on the color of his skin is something we cannot tolerate.”

On Wednesday, Judge David Deakin handed down a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years, describing the punishment as proportional to the crime.

Deakein also addressed the victim’s loved ones who were present in the courtroom.

“I am well aware that no sentence can give them what they most want, which is to have Mr. Tapia back,” the judge said. “If I could, I wouldn’t do anything other than that.”

When given a chance to speak, Kapsalis apologized to Tapia’s family and expressed remorse for using a racial slur.

“I am well aware that no sentence can give them what they most want, which is to have Mr. Tapia back,” the judge said. “If I could, I wouldn’t do anything other than that.”

“Language like that is disgraceful, and I’m very ashamed of myself for using such horrible words,” Kapsalis said.

Tapia’s cousin, Raul Felipe, told NBC Boston he did not think that Kapsalis’ apology sounded sincere.

“But eventually we can find it in our hearts to forgive him,” he added.

The victim’s fiancée, Courtney Morton, said their 6-year-old son is now afraid that he, too, might become a victim of hate one day.

“My son has to serve a life sentence without his father due to the actions of this man,” said Morton, according to reporting by the station WCVB.

Tapia’s family had hoped that his killer would be sentenced to a life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“But I know there is something more important than this. And it’s the justice of heaven, the justice of God,” said Tapia’s mother, Miosotis Morel.

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