Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Dec. 1, 2021

Linkedin Pinterest

Murder trial looks at special needs of toddler who was killed

Suspect said to have been aware that his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son was developmentally delayed, affecting his behavior

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
2 Photos
Ricardo Gutierrez Jr., who’s accused of brutally beating his girlfriend’s toddler to death in May 2016, waits for his bench trial to begin Monday in Clark County Superior Court.
Ricardo Gutierrez Jr., who’s accused of brutally beating his girlfriend’s toddler to death in May 2016, waits for his bench trial to begin Monday in Clark County Superior Court. Ariane Kunze/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Testimony offered Tuesday in Ricardo Gutierrez Jr.’s murder trial indicates that he knew his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son was developmentally delayed and that the boy’s behavioral outbursts stemmed from those issues.

Gutierrez, 41, is accused of brutally beating Jose “Pepe” Castillo-Cisneros to death May 23, 2016, at their Battle Ground home. He was not the boy’s biological father.

Prosecutors are seeking to prove that Pepe was a particularly vulnerable victim — an aggravating factor that would allow for an exceptionally long sentence if Gutierrez were to be found guilty.

Gutierrez is facing first-degree murder and second-degree assault in Clark County Superior Court. He opted for a bench trial — meaning he waived his right to have a jury decide the case.

His defense attorney, Ed Dunkerly, told a judge Monday that his client was increasingly frustrated by Pepe’s behavior and felt the boy needed to be better disciplined. Pepe had difficulty talking and often communicated by screaming and yelling.

Maggie Callery, a teacher with Educational Service District 112, testified Tuesday afternoon that Pepe was referred to an early-intervention program in October 2015 for concerns over his behavior and communication skills. She said Pepe demonstrated significant developmental delay, particularly in verbal abilities.

She met with him and his mother, Yadira Cisneros, at their home 16 times between October 2015 and May 2016 to help him advance in his development.

In December 2015, Callery spoke with Gutierrez during one of her visits about Pepe’s developmental delay, his outbursts and why he behaves that way. Gutierrez reportedly asked her if Pepe’s brain was “different” and specifically asked her about autism, she testified.

They also discussed whether enforcing stricter discipline, such as spanking, would help to deter Pepe’s behavior. Callery testified that she told Gutierrez that Pepe would not respond to physical discipline the same as a typical child. She used an example in which Pepe’s mother had spanked him, and he responded by smiling and laughing.

Callery, instead, suggested setting boundaries and offered alternative methods of discipline.

She said that she evaluated Pepe in March 2016 for Battle Ground’s early childhood special education program, and he qualified for the program in all areas but one. He started attending the preschool program later that month.

Gutierrez’s trial continues Wednesday in front of Judge Robert Lewis.

Loading...