Couple on trial in slaying of neighbor they believed had molested their 3-year-old girl
Jurors on Tuesday began deliberating the fate of a Turlock couple accused of killing their neighbor because they suspected he had molested their 3-year-old daughter.
Edward Gutierrez, 39, and Charlotte Gutierrez, 41, face premeditated first-degree murder charges, but could be convicted of manslaughter if jurors believe they were provoked or acted in the heat of passion.
An early-morning telephone call to police, over abuse allegations that never were substantiated, started a chain of events that led to Eduardo Negrete's death.
The main question before the Stanislaus County Superior Court jury is whether the Gutierrezes planned the attack on Negrete or acted on the spur of the moment.
A prosecutor pointed to a baseball bat, knife and knife sharpener Edward Gutierrez purchased at Big Five Sporting Goods less than an hour before Negrete's death, saying they are proof of a plan.
"Ladies and gentlemen, apparently the price tag for the murder of a neighbor is $110.53," Deputy District Attorney Sharon Lizardo said. "Find them guilty as charged."
During a three-week trial, witnesses said Edward Gutierrez stabbed Negrete repeat-edly, while his wife urged him on.
Edward Gutierrez confronted Negrete about noon on June 15, 2006, witnesses said, pulling him out of his truck as Negrete and his wife tried to leave their apartment complex on Twentieth Century Boulevard.
Elizabeth Negrete, who testified through a Spanish translator, said Edward Gutierrez stabbed her husband behind the ear as he fled, then chased him through his sister's nearby apartment into an enclosed patio.
The widow said Charlotte Gutierrez blocked the path of Negrete's family members who tried to intervene, yelling: "Let him kill him! Let him kill him! He deserves it!"
She said her husband died in her arms, after Edward Gutierrez stabbed him repeatedly in the chest and stomach.
A pathologist said Eduardo Negrete had 42 stab wounds ranging from two to six inches deep, including 14 lethal stab wounds.
According to authorities, Edward Gutierrez, who had military training, told police that he purchased the knife because he thought a kitchen knife would break.
Defense attorneys said the Gutierrezes called police and took their daughter to Emanuel Medical Center because they believed she had been molested by Eduardo Negrete.
They said the Gutierrezes were upset when authorities did not find conclusive signs of molestation, leaving them with minds clouded by rage.
They also said testimony by members of the Negrete family was full of inconsistencies and outright fabrications.
Prosecutor Lizardo referred to the Gutierrezes as "Rambo" and "Rambo's helper."
She said the couple could have taken their child to a follow-up appointment with specialists at Children's Hospital near Madera, as advised, but took the law into their own hands instead.
"These two people decided to be gravediggers for Mr. Negrete," Lizardo said. ..more.. by SUSAN HERENDEEN
TURLOCK — Police say they have a videotape that shows Edward Lorenzo Gutierrez buying a military knife and a baseball bat at a local store Wednesday morning.
An hour later, he allegedly used the items to club and stab to death his neighbor, Eduardo Negrete, 36, police said.
Gutierrez believed that Negrete had molested his young daughter, but there is no evidence to back up the claim, said Lt. Fin Johnson.
"He decided he wasn't going to wait for us to do an investigation, and decided to do it himself," said Johnson.
The autopsy performed Thursday morning showed that several of the wounds could have killed Negrete.
"The coroner said he suffered multiple wounds that individually would have been fatal," Johnson said. "He had massive damage to his internal organs from the knife trauma, including one knife wound to the skull that penetrated and caused substantial brain damage."
After Gutierrez was arrested, officers found a bloody weapon in his car.
"It was a seven-inch, fixed blade, Marine Corps fighting knife," Johnson said. "It was a World War II K-bar. It was meant for only one thing and that was to kill."
Gutierrez, 37, and his wife, Charlote, 39, are in jail on murder charges, Johnson said. Edward Gutierrez also faces a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
According to police, Gutierrez came out of his apartment on Twentieth Century Boulevard armed with the bat and the knife, with his wife following him around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Witnesses said he smashed the window of the truck where Negrete was sitting with his wife, Elizabeth.
The couple chased Negrete across the street and then back to the complex, where Negrete fled into his brother-in-law's apartment, police said. The couple followed Negrete inside and attacked the brother-in-law when he tried to intervene. Negrete died in the tiny back yard of the apartment.
"We're trying to firm up the actual sequence of events," Johnson said. "At some point (Gutierrez) abandoned the bat and his wife picked it up and joined in."
The Gutierrezes moved from San Jose about six months ago. Police haven't found any arrest record for him, but Johnson said Charlote Gutierrez has an extensive criminal history.
"It goes back to the mid-1980s, mostly violent crime and drugs, including a residential burglary," Johnson said. "There also were some child abuse allegations."
The Gutierrezes had called Turlock police Wednesday morning to report the alleged incident with their daughter. Charlote Gutierrez took her daughter to a local physician, who could not find any signs of abuse or trauma, Johnson said.
Police plan to have the girl examined by a forensic nurse who specializes in abuse cases to determine if there is any basis for the allegation.
Negrete's family members said there was bad blood between the two men after Negrete accused Gutierrez of breaking into several vehicles and stealing property from them.
Negrete is survived by his wife and two daughters, Leslie, 4, and Natalie, 2. Family members said he worked two jobs to support his family here and his elderly parents in Mexico.
Negrete was a popular employee at La Racherita Restaurant on West Main Street.
"He was well-known and well-liked here," said Hugo Sanchez, Negrete's boss. "He was always making everybody laugh."
After word of his death spread, a somber atmosphere hung over the restaurant.
"Two of the other cooks came in crying when they heard what had happened," Sanchez said. "He was one of the main guys here.…He was a really good guy and a hard worker."
The homicide was the first of 2005 in the city. The last homicide took place June 18, when a woman allegedly torched a house and killed a woman inside because of an alleged love triangle.
" This guy took matters into his own hands...but it doesn't look like he has a case to support it...nothing was found by the doctor who examined the girl........I plead the 5th on what I would do if someone touched my son or my g/f kids.... ..Source..