Update 4:00 p.m.: Police say that Gutierrez's body was located on the 7000 block of Barnheisel Road (near SR 156), off the roadway and under brush, in San Benito County when it was found this morning. It appears she suffered from at least one gunshot wound, but an autopsy of her body is being conducted by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's Office.
The body of 52-year-old Martha Gutierrez was found Thursday morning after San Benito residents informed police about a “deceased middle-aged woman’s body" located in a rural area off Pacheco Pass Highway in San Benito Country, Sgt. Chad Gallacinao of the Gilroy Police Department said.
“The highway patrol received a call just before 10 a.m. about the body of a deceased woman that was found on the 7000 block in San Benito County,” Gallacinao said. “Detectives headed out and we were able to identify Martha as the deceased body.”
Gallacinao said evidence uncovered during a search party involving Search and Rescue crew and police dogs on Wednesday lead them to the San Benito County area and ultimately to the crime scene.
“Some of the evidence [from Wednesday’s search] actually lead us to the area in San Benito County yesterday," he said. “We were searching areas surrounding the [crime scene] to try and find Martha, and as a result we did contact several residents during the search to let them know why we were out there—to let them know to give us a call [if they found anything].”
Gallacinao said Martha’s body was found under some brush, and that there was evidence of an apparent gunshot wound. Police suspect that Martha’s son, 27-year-old Iraq War veteran Abel Gutierrez, killed his mother before . Police found in Abel’s car to substantiate their suspicion.
Gallacinao said investigators will be looking into how long Martha’s body was physically at the crime scene in an attempt to determine whether Abel killed his mother.
Patty Pena and Blanca Amezquita, who were spearheading the weekend search parties for Martha, said they were at the Gilroy police station speaking with police this morning when the news broke.
“We were meeting with the police department—there was a lot of animosity with a lot of the residents and others saying police weren't doing enough to locate Martha—so we were meeting with them this morning to coordinate another search and in between the meeting they got a call and went out to look,” Pena said. “We all just waited there till they came back to let us know... and yes, it was confirmed.”
Gallacinoa said police only temporarily suspended search parties to narrow down Martha’s whereabouts, which could of been in .
“The GPD never stopped looking for Martha," he said. "We searched multiple nights after it occurred. We officially suspended some of the search efforts on Monday as more information was developed by detectives and we planned to continue our searches.”
Gallacinao said Martha’s body was located because Wednesday’s search prompted San Benito residents to conduct their own searches. He said police were meeting with the Gutierrez family Thursday morning to inform them about their efforts.
“We have been in constant contact with the Gutierrez family,” Gallacinao said. “We were meeting this morning with some of the family and I know their perception changed because they knew we were actively looking for her.”
Pena said police told members of the Gutierrez family about Martha’s body being located, and that the family told them afterward.
“[The family] didn’t say much—they didn’t have to say much,” Pena said. “Then everyone started calling our cell phones, and were saying they found her body.”
News about a deceased body being located was relayed during a press conference for missing Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar at 10:30 a.m. in Morgan Hill Thursday. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith received the call and informed press conference attendees at that time, according to a San Jose Mercury News article.
Crime scene investigators are currently processing the scene where Martha’s body was located and will be there throughout most of the day, Gallacinoa said. Police are waiting for the medical examiner to show up to conduct their portion of the investigation.
Gilroy Patch will have updates as more information becomes available.