Remains of missing Longmont woman recovered; Figueroa set to enter guilty plea




  • In US
  • 2022-05-20 03:25:00Z
  • By Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

May 19-After four years, the search for Rita Gutierrez-Garcia and her killer have come to an end.

The remains of Gutierrez-Garcia have been recovered east of Longmont, and the man charged in her disappearance and murder is set to enter a guilty plea in connection with her death.

The Boulder County District Attorney's Office in a release today revealed that information provided to investigators led them to search an area in Weld County, where human remains were recovered April 28.

Prosecutors said DNA results came back on the remains today and confirm they belong to Gutierrez-Garcia.

The Boulder County District Attorney's Office also announced that Juan Jose Figueroa Jr., 32, is set to enter a guilty plea and be sentenced June 3, though no details of the plea and possible sentence were released.

"The recovery is the culmination of a years-long effort to hold her killer responsible and to recover Rita's remains," the Boulder District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Figueroa was indicted by a grand jury on counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, felony murder and second-degree kidnapping, but he is already serving a 93-year to life sentence in Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City on an unrelated sex assault conviction.

In a statement provided by the DA, Gutierrez-Garcia's family said they were relieved "this is no longer a missing person investigation."

The Boulder County District Attorney's Office credited Longmont police Detectives Cody Clark and Todd Chambers, First Assistant District Attorney Katharina Booth, Senior Deputy District Attorney Michelle Sudano and District Attorney

Investigator Chris Merkle "for their tenacity, skill, and tireless efforts on behalf of Rita, her family, and the Longmont community."

Gutierrez-Garcia has been missing since March 18, 2018, when she was celebrating St. Patrick's Day with friends and family at bars in downtown Longmont. She was last seen in a city parking lot behind 3's Bar.

Figueroa was named as the primary suspect early on in the case, but with no body, prosecutors were only able to present the case to a grand jury in April 2021 as a "no body homicide."

According to the grand jury indictment, Figueroa was arrested March 27, 2018, in Texas on a warrant for the Boulder County sexual assault case after he was stopped by Customs and Border Patrol agents as he was crossing back into the U.S. from Mexico.

When Texas officials told him the warrant was for sexual assault and that he was likely to be extradited, the indictment states that Figueroa responded, "That's the only warrant? That's it? ... Just sex assault? ... Sweet, let's get this over and done with so I can get my bond, get it posted."

The indictment also states Figueroa told a cellmate that he had strangled Gutierrez-Garcia after punching her into unconsciousness after she called him a "weirdo." The indictment states he said her body was in "an area not accessible to the public."

A separate witness testified before a grand jury that Figueroa said he had buried Gutierrez-Garcia's body and that "the only way anyone would find it is if police inserted a probe into his brain," according to the indictment.

The indictment also states that investigators found DNA evidence that confirms Gutierrez-Garcia was in Figueroa's pickup. Cellphone data from early March 18, 2018, also shows that her cellphone traveled the same path as the pickup until it was turned off at 3:10 a.m., just after Longmont Police dispatch received a hang-up 911 call at 3:07 a.m. Dispatchers tried calling back twice but got no answer.

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