Man faces murder allegation in Battle Ground boy’s death

3-year-old dies of injuries suffered Monday

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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Gutierrez previously convicted of assault in Oregon

The man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son Monday night in Battle Ground has a history of violent behavior.

Ricardo Gutierrez, 39, was convicted in 2007 of second-degree assault stemming from a domestic violence case involving a former girlfriend in Jackson County, Ore., according to Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert. Gutierrez was also charged with attempted murder, but that charge was later dismissed.

Second-degree assault is a Measure 11 crime in Oregon and carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months in prison. Gutierrez was also sentenced to three years’ post-prison supervision.

The victim in that case is not the same woman Gutierrez was dating and living with in Battle Ground.

Heckert said Gutierrez has a criminal history that dates to 1995, but she said most of those offenses were misdemeanors and non-violent crimes. It’s possible he could have additional criminal history in another county, she said.

Gutierrez did not have a prior criminal history in Washington, Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes said.

The victim in the Oregon assault was in a coma and on a respirator for days after Gutierrez strangled and left her for dead, according to an Oct. 26, 2007, story in The Medford, Ore., Mail-Tribune.

The 25-year-old woman, who was not identified in the story, was in a car with Gutierrez on Aug. 26, 2007, when he attacked her and left her lying unconscious in shrubs near Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford, Ore., the Mail-Tribune reported.

Gutierrez later pleaded guilty to the assault charge.

Court records indicate that Gutierrez was born in Los Angeles and is a press operator for a Portland printing company.

A Battle Ground man suspected of killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son Monday night allegedly beat and stabbed the boy to death after the child started crying over a movie that he didn’t want to watch, according to court records.

The boy, identified in court records as Jose Castillo-Cisneros, but who went by Pepe, later died of his injuries at an area hospital. Police arrested Ricardo Gutierrez at the scene.

Gutierrez, 39, made his first court appearance Tuesday morning in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of first-degree murder. Judge Daniel Stahnke set his bail at $1.5 million.

Gutierrez lived at the Battle Ground residence and was in a relationship with the victim’s mother but was not the boy’s father, Battle Ground Police Department spokeswoman Bonnie Gilberti said. Gutierrez had lived at the residence for only a couple of months, court records say.

Pepe had autism, according to a GoFundMe page set up by his aunt, Brenda Cisneros Al Faraj.

“There are no words to express the pain my sister … and everyone in my family are feeling right (now). We are devastated,” Cisneros Al Faraj wrote. “He was doing so well. He was learning how to talk, and this was his second week at his special school. Yesterday was the first day he didn’t cry when the bus picked him up, and he got home very happy after school. We still can’t believe he’s not with us anymore.”

A memorial for Pepe grew in front of his family’s home Tuesday.

Candy Harrison of Battle Ground embraced her 22-month-old grandson, Pauly Harrison, as she took in the scene. Harrison’s son lives near the home where Pepe lived, and she said she was shocked to hear of his death.

“I can’t make sense of it. I just want the family to know that the community is here for them,” she said.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Pepe’s 9-year-old sister called 911 about 7:45 p.m. Monday to report that her father, identified as Gutierrez, was hitting her brother. The girl told dispatchers that her mother, Yadira Cisneros, was upstairs fighting with Gutierrez over Pepe.

Dispatchers said they overheard what sounded like someone yelling, “He is killing me!” The girl said Pepe was in a “big puddle of blood and not breathing,” the affidavit said.

Minutes later, Battle Ground police arrived at the residence in the 1600 block of Southwest Sixth Street and said they heard screaming coming from inside the home, court records said. Police forced entry to the home, detained Gutierrez and began CPR on the critically injured boy.

Police said it appeared Pepe was stabbed on the right side of his head. His face and arm were bruised, according to court documents.

Police found a broken steak knife in the bedroom.

Several family members arrived at the home, and Cisneros’ sister, Brenda Cisneros Al Faraj, translated what happened for police from Spanish to English, court records said.

The mother’s account

Cisneros was washing dishes when she heard the children crying upstairs. She said she rushed upstairs and went into a bedroom to see Gutierrez throwing Pepe against the wall. There was a large hole in the drywall. She said Gutierrez was trying to choke Pepe, according to the affidavit.

Cisneros told Gutierrez that he was killing Pepe, she said, but he wouldn’t stop. She placed her 1-month-old son on top of Pepe to keep Gutierrez from assaulting him further. But that didn’t work, according to court documents. It’s unclear if the 1-month-old was injured.

Gutierrez stopped when it appeared Pepe was no longer breathing, court records said. Cisneros suffered injuries to her leg and neck, and a possible broken arm during the assault, police said.

The 9-year-old girl told police she was upstairs with her brother watching a movie when he started crying because he didn’t want to watch that movie. Pepe went into Gutierrez’s bedroom. Gutierrez became enraged by the boy’s crying, she said, and tried to pull him into the room, the affidavit said. The girl said Gutierrez hated Pepe.

Gutierrez told police that he doesn’t remember assaulting Pepe. He said he remembered going out to dinner with the family earlier that evening. After that, he was being handcuffed by police. Gutierrez said he has blacked out in the past from anger, the affidavit said.

First appearance

During his court appearance, Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes said Gutierrez has a criminal history that dates to the 1990s, primarily in Oregon, which includes assault convictions. Gutierrez was previously convicted of second-degree assault in Jackson County, Ore., Hayes said, and is on parole. Gutierrez was charged with attempted murder in that case, but the charge was later dismissed.

Hayes said it’s likely an assault charge will also be filed against Gutierrez in this case. He asked Stahnke to set Gutierrez’s bail at $1 million.

Gutierrez’s court-appointed defense attorney, Ed Dunkerly, said that bail amount is unreasonable.

“I also don’t think that’s reasonable,” Stahnke said. “I’ll set it at $1.5 million.”

Stahnke ordered that Gutierrez is not to have contact with his girlfriend or her other children.

He is set to be arraigned June 3.

The Battle Ground Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit are continuing an investigation into the incident.

Columbian reporter Emily Gillespie and photographer Amanda Cowan contributed to this story.