The search hasn’t stopped.
As the third year since Rita Gutierrez-Garcia disappearance is marked Thursday, her family, police and community want people to remember that her case is still active. Efforts to find out what happened to the 34-year-old mother of three, who is presumed dead, continue.
“Sometimes we will go someplace and search,” said Diane Romero, Gutierrez-Garcia’s mom. “If you know anything, hear anything, see anything — people who are hiking, fishing, hunting, people with ranches or farms — if they could just be on the lookout. If they see something, don’t hesitate to call police.”
Gutierrez-Garcia’s sister, Nicole Romero, echoed the sentiment.
“Detectives are still taking any tips that people have,” she said. “We’re still looking for Rita.”
On March 17, 2018, Gutierrez-Garcia had gone out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in downtown Longmont with family and friends. It was reported to police that she was last seen walking to the parking lot behind 3’s Bar, 333 Main St. between 2:15 and 3:30 a.m. March 18. A friend said Gutierrez-Garcia had texted her to say she was getting a ride home.
Longmont police Detective Cody Clark said in an email that Gutierrez-Garcia’s case remains active.
“I work on this case daily and continue to gather evidence investigate tips, and consult with other investigators on a routine basis,” he wrote in an email. “I also speak with her family on a regular basis to keep them apprised of the investigation and also just check in on them. There has been some substantial progress in this case recently, and we hope to be able to share those things with the public soon.”
Longmont police Sgt. Matt Cage said police don’t yet have a time frame for when they would be able to share those updates with the public.
Longmont police also issued a statement about her case, emphasizing that work to find her continues.
“This case continues to be a priority for the Longmont Police Department,” the statement read. “The detective assigned to the case is the same detective originally assigned. He continues to work every lead that comes in. This case is tragic for the victim, the victim’s family, the community and for our department.”
Police have identified Juan Figueroa Jr. as a suspect in her disappearance. Clark said Figueroa is still considered to be the sole suspect, though, he said, that may change if other information becomes available.
Longmont police first named Figueroa as a suspect in Gutierrez-Garcia’s case in July 2018. Figueroa hasn’t been charged in her disappearance, Cage said in a phone interview Wednesday. He said he couldn’t yet answer why Figueroa remains a suspect, but hasn’t been charged.
During prior reporting, police have said Figueroa was the last one to be seen with Gutierrez-Garcia before she vanished. Longmont police also said they found evidence that suggests Gutierrez-Garcia may have been in Figueroa’s vehicle at one point. Police said they were not aware of any personal relationship between Gutierrez-Garcia and Figueroa.
In a separate case, Figueroa was accused of raping and strangling a woman he met at a bar downtown in 2017. A jury convicted Figueroa in 2019 of sexual assault, felony assault and attempted murder. He was sentenced to 93 years to life in prison.
Remembering her life
On April 7, Gutierrez-Garcia would have turned 38.
Diane Romero said Gutierrez-Garcia, who was the oldest of three, was a typical oldest sibling.
“She definitely was the oldest in every way,” Romero said. “(She was) the one who took care of her sisters. She kept us all molded together.”
Gutierrez-Garcia loved cooking and baking, especially Italian food and cakes.
When she wasn’t cooking, she was working toward becoming a paralegal. Romero said her daughter had received her certificate from Front Range Community College and her graduation ceremony was planned for May. Romero said her daughter wanted to help women and children who were in domestic violence situations.
“She had a life. She had family,” Romero said. “She had things that she wanted to accomplish in life. One was her education and pursuing a career.”
Jessica Tull, a Firestone resident, is among those who want to keep Gutierrez-Garcia’s case on peoples’ minds. A year ago, she began a true crime podcast series about missing people called Missing at 5280. Her first episode was about Gutierrez-Garcia. This year, she again will dedicate an episode to the missing woman. For the podcast, Diane and Nicole Romero talked with Tull, sharing what Gutierrez-Garcia was like and the events leading up to her disappearance.
Tull said her aim is to make sure Gutierrez-Garcia’s case is not forgotten.
“Our whole motto is that someone somewhere knows something,” Tull said. “I want to keep her in everybody’s memory. I want people to remember … she never came back. She has three boys who are growing up without her. It’s a tragedy that this happened.”
She added: “We really only need to reach one person that knows something,” she said. “In each case, we really only have to reach that one person and hopefully they will come forward.”
The podcast is set to broadcast on Friday. People can listen to it online, including in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Radio Public and Pocket Casts.
Romero said she appreciates Tull’s efforts to keep her daughter’s story at the forefront.
“I’m looking forward to hearing the podcast that she’s going to come out with,” she said.
On Thursday, Romero said family members will visit the bench dedicated to Gutierrez-Garcia in Thompson Park and decorate it.
“There are people who have left flowers and cards (there),” she said. “We always appreciate that — that she is in peoples’ thoughts.”
How to help:
Longmont police continue to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in Gutierrez-Garcia’s disappearance or $10,000 for information leading to the discovery of her remains.
People who have information about the case can call 303-774-3700 or email [email protected] Those who submit any information can choose to remain anonymous. A webpage with information and updates about Gutierrez-Garcia’s case is also available at: longmontcolorado.gov/rita.
Source: Read Full Article