Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Oct. 19, 2021

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Man sentenced to 45 years in prison in toddler’s murder

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

While handing down a 45-year prison sentence, a judge told Ricardo Gutierrez Jr. that even if he suffers from a diagnosed anger disorder, he still chose to brutally beat his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son to death and could have stopped the attack at any time.

“He had the ability to control himself, but he chose not to,” Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis said during sentencing Tuesday.

Lewis found Gutierrez, 41, guilty Feb. 1 of first-degree murder in the beating death of Jose “Pepe” Castillo-Cisneros. The May 23, 2016, attack began at their Battle Ground home after Gutierrez became upset over Pepe’s crying. The boy was developmentally delayed and often communicated by screaming and crying.

Pepe suffered multiple blows to his head and face, and at one point during the beating, Gutierrez hurled him into a wall.

Lewis had also found Gutierrez guilty of second-degree assault for injuries he inflicted on Pepe’s mother, Yadira Cisneros, who desperately tried to stop the attack. Gutierrez was Cisneros’ live-in boyfriend but not Pepe’s biological father.

In reaching his verdict, Lewis determined that Pepe was a particularly vulnerable victim, based on his young age. The finding allowed the judge to tack on 16 years to Gutierrez’s standard sentence of about 29 years in prison. He is also not to have contact with any minor children, including his own.

Prosecutors had asked that Gutierrez be sentenced to 70 years in prison, while the defense asked for about 31 years.

Before the sentence was handed down, Pepe’s mother told the court through a Spanish interpreter that she doesn’t feel justice was served.

“His life is worth way more than all of the years this man can spend in a cell,” she said.

Still, Gutierrez needs to be locked up for the rest of his life, Cisneros said, so he can’t hurt anyone else. She added that she does not wish the suffering she’s endured on anyone.

“I live day to day feeling incomplete because that special person is missing,” she said, adding that no one can bring back Pepe.

Cisneros and other family members in attendance wore “Justice for Pepe” shirts, featuring a large photo of the smiling boy.

During sentencing, defense attorney Edward Leroy Dunkerly presented Lewis with Gutierrez’s mental health report and testimony from the report’s co-author, a neuropsychologist.

The neuropsychologist said that Gutierrez has problems with impulse control and suffers from intermittent explosive disorder in which a person’s angry outburst is grossly disproportionate to the stressor. He also testified that Gutierrez suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was 8 years old. Explosive anger can be a symptom of a traumatic brain injury, the neuropsychologist said.

Those brain issues combined with Gutierrez’s past substance abuse and exposure to chemicals at his former workplace, a commercial printing business in Portland, contributed to his anger and control issues, the neuropsychologist said.

However, on cross-examination, the prosecution revealed disturbing behavior that dates back to Gutierrez’s childhood.

Despite having a normal family life, Gutierrez on more than one occasion tortured and killed cats when he was a child, the neuropsychologist wrote in his report.

And Gutierrez was convicted in 2007 of second-degree assault stemming from a domestic violence case involving a former girlfriend in Jackson County, Ore. He was also charged with attempted murder, but that charge was later dismissed.

Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik referenced the incident in the neuropsychologist’s report, revealing that Gutierrez strangled his former girlfriend and left her for dead outside a hospital. She was in a coma for three days before regaining consciousness.

The attack occurred because Gutierrez believed she was cheating on him, much like his beliefs that Pepe’s mother was cheating on him, Golik said.

Gutierrez verbally and physically abused his former girlfriend and tried to keep her from friends.

Golik argued that Gutierrez displayed anti-social tendencies and likened his behavior to a sociopath. The neuropsychologist agreed that his behavior is consistent with a sociopath.

Golik described Gutierrez as being “extraordinarily dangerous.”

When it came time for Gutierrez to address the court, he asked Pepe’s family for forgiveness.

Gutierrez said he didn’t intend to hurt Pepe; he was tired and hearing voices, he said. He thinks about what happened to Pepe every day, he added.

“I didn’t know how to understand Pepito, please forgive me,” Gutierrez said.