Man Convicted In 2021 Murder Of Henry Tapia Sentenced To Life In Prison, Parole Eligible In 2036

Photo: Dean Kapsalis being sentenced in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn (Credit: Pool photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via AP)

Nearly three years after running down and killing Henry Tapia on Upland Street, the convicted assailant was sentenced to life in prison for what prosecutors described as “a hate crime.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 17 in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Hudson resident Dean Kapsalis, 58, was sentenced by Judge David Deakin to a life sentence after being found guilty in May 2023 of second-degree murder of Henry Tapia, 34, of Boston.

Henry Tapia (Credit: GoFundMe)

Speaking from the bench, Deakin said the sentence was “proportional to the crime,” adding that Kapsalis’ “record reflects essentially a lifelong tendency toward violence.”

The incident took place on Jan. 22, 2021 after both men exited their vehicles during what police and prosecutors described as a “road rage” incident. After a brief verbal altercation and as each returned to their vehicles, Kapsalis called Tapia a racial slur before entering his pickup and then struck and ran over Tapia, who was visiting his fiancee and child.

Belmont Police responded to a 911 call reporting that a man had been struck by a car in the area of 39-45 Upland Rd. Police located Tapia conscious but suffering from life-threatening injuries. Tapia was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Having served three years in Middlesex County jail since his arrest, Kapsalis will be eligible to petition the state parole board in 2036 when he turns 70.

Upland Road Rage Charges Upped To Murder As Select Board Calls Special Public Forum For Wednesday

Photo: Participants in the rally to remember Henry Tapia.

The Belmont Select Board will be hosting a special community forum on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. to discuss the death of Henry Tapia who was killed in an alleged road rage incident a week ago on Upland Road.

On Monday, Jan. 25, at Cambridge District Court, the assailant, Dean Kapsalis, saw an additional charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing death added to his existing charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and a civil rights violation.

He was ordered held without bail with his next court appearance on March 1.

Nearly 200 residents and citizens joined Tapia’s friends and family for a rally to celebrate Tapia’s life on Thursday, Jan. 21 in Cushing Square. Kim Haley-Jackson, vice chair of the Belmont Human Rights Commission, Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac, Middlesex DA and Belmont resident Marion Ryan, Select Board’s Adam Dash, State Rep. Rogers, State Sen. Will Brownsberger each spoke to the impact of a race-based killing in a town that at times seems, as one attendee said, “devoid in discussing” the racial issues affecting the country.

“What I want to say to everyone is: Yes, Belmont. You too,” said Haley-Jackson.

“What I want to ask from my town is to think about your everyday actions. You think about your neighbors who don’t look like you. We are a community and not everyone is the same. We don’t all have the same belief system, we don’t all live the same lives but we all live together,” she said.

An agenda has not been published for the community forum. People can attend by going to the Zoom site: Meeting ID: 822 4577 0498

Tapia’s friends created a GoFundMe page to help his partner, Courtney Morton, and his three children. It has raised $152,800 as of Wednesday morning.

Tapia, a Black/Latino Boston resident living with his partner in Belmont, was killed when Kapsalis, a 54-year-old from Hudson who was living with his girlfriend on Upland Road, hit and dragged the victim after the pair squared off during what is alleged to have been a road rage incident sometime after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

In court Monday, prosecutors from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office said witnesses heard as well as an alarm system recorded as Kapsalis “yelled racial slurs” at Tapia during the confrontation.

“There was a Ring doorbell near the scene of this incident, and it captured the audio of the interaction between the victim and the defendant,” said prosecutor Nicole Allain.

“The defendant can be heard calling the victim a series of derogatory terms, which culminated in his use of the N-word. Seconds later, that’s when the vehicle accelerates. A loud ‘thud’ noise can be heard, and the defendant’s red truck can be seen on video driving [away from] the scene,” said Allain.

MacIsaac’s said the first responding officers found Tapia conscious but in distress, reportedly saying “I can’t breathe.” Tapia was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital where he died soon after arriving.

“My officers were shocked to hear that he had died,” said MacIsaac. “It has effected the department.”

Racial Slurs Used By Defendant During Deadly Road Rage Incident In Belmont

Photo: Dean Kapsalis being arraigned in Cambridge District Court (Credit: Pool video provided by WHDH)

A Hudson man was allegedly yelling racist slurs at a Black and Latino man before running him down and killing him with his pickup during a road rage incident on Upland Road on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Dean Kapsalis, 54 of Hudson was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on Wednesday, Jan. 20 on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a civil rights violation causing injury and leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury in connection with striking and killing Henry Tapia, 35 of Boston.

Henry Tapia, killed in a road rage incident on Upland Road. (Credit: GoFundMe)

Judge Robert Harnais ordered the defendant held pending a dangerousness hearing scheduled for Jan. 25.

A vigil is being organized to remember Tapia at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 22 in Cushing Square. A GoFundMe account has been set up to assist Tapia’s partner and three children.

The Middlesex DA investigation reported witnesses heard the defendant and the victim engaged in a verbal altercation in the roadway near 39-45 Upland Rd. where Kapsalis was yelling racial slurs at the Taia. Witnesses told police the victim allegedly began to walk back to his vehicle, a Honda Civic. At that time, the defendant allegedly entered his vehicle, a Dodge Dakota pickup truck, and drove it at the victim striking him by the driver’s side of his vehicle and dragging him a short distance before fleeing the scene.

Belmont Police located Tapia conscious but suffering from life-threatening injuries. First responders provided emergency assistance until Belmont Rescue arrived on the scene. Mr. Tapia was transported from the scene to Massachusetts General Hospital where he later died from his injuries.

The defendant ultimately turned himself in to police about a half-hour later.

While both men officially reside outside of the town, each has family or have lived in Belmont. Police report that neither party knew the other.

This is an active and ongoing investigation being conducted by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and Belmont Police. A reconstruction of the crash will be conducted by the Massachusetts State Police Crash Reconstruction and Analysis Section and additional charges are possible.