Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Dec. 1, 2021

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Testimony describes murder suspect’s dislike of 3-year-old

Prosecution rests; defense to begin calling witnesses in Gutierrez murder trial

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
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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. Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday.
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. Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday. Ariane Kunze/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Prosecutors presented damning evidence Wednesday in Ricardo Gutierrez Jr.’s murder trial, illustrating the man’s hatred for the developmentally delayed toddler he’s accused of killing.

Testimony revealed Gutierrez, 41, had expressed his dislike for 3-year-old Jose “Pepe” Castillo-Cisneros to family and a co-worker in the months before allegedly beating the boy to death May 23, 2016, at their Battle Ground home. Gutierrez was the live-in boyfriend of Pepe’s mother, but was not Pepe’s biological father.

On Wednesday afternoon, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes introduced a text message exchange between Gutierrez and a brother discussing Pepe in March 2016, two months before the boy’s death.

In one message, Gutierrez wrote to his brother, “Salimas mal,” which a Spanish interpreter translated to mean, “We ended up bad.” The message goes on to read, “…cause of punk ass Pepe. Lil (expletive) ass always yelling wanting everything so I yelled at him and told him to shut the (expletive) up lol. He started crying hella bad too. Like someone killing him.”

Later in the exchange, Gutierrez wrote that Pepe’s family could see that he didn’t like the boy and treated him differently because of it. He told his brother that he would buy the family stuff to try to gain favor.

Then, a former co-worker of Gutierrez’s took the stand.

He testified through a Spanish interpreter that Gutierrez confided in him often about his relationship issues and his dislike for Pepe. Gutierrez reportedly told the co-worker that Pepe was “not good.” The toddler would cry at home for no reason, and that upset Gutierrez.

The co-worker said that Gutierrez had described a time when the family was at a store and Pepe kept saying hello to people. Gutierrez told him that Pepe was autistic and used an offensive term to describe Pepe’s developmental delay.

Gutierrez was becoming increasingly paranoid, the co-worker said, and thought his girlfriend was cheating on him. He often tried to leave his shift early to check on her. And he spent substantial time on his cellphone, calling and texting her, while at his job at a commercial printing business in Portland.

The co-worker testified that Gutierrez once told him that if he ever caught his girlfriend cheating, he would kill her.

Defense attorney Edward Leroy Dunkerly questioned the co-worker about whether he was upset over Gutierrez receiving a promotion over him.

The prosecution rested its case following the co-worker’s testimony.

Before beginning its case, the defense brought a motion to dismiss the first-degree murder and second-degree assault charges.

Dunkerly argued that prosecutors had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the slaying was planned. He said that, at best, this may be a second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter case — neither charge requires the element of premeditation. Dunkerly has previously said the defense will not contest that Gutierrez killed the boy.

He also asserted that the assault charge, which is for the injuries Pepe’s mom suffered in the attack, was not appropriate. Dunkerly said Gutierrez did not specifically go after her and that she was injured while intervening.

Judge Robert Lewis denied the motion, allowing both charges to stand.

The defense will begin calling witnesses Thursday morning. Closing arguments are also expected Thursday. It’s unknown how quickly Lewis will rule on the case.

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