Gilroy police have confirmed that the body of a woman found this morning in a rural area of San Benito County is that of Martha Gutierrez, 52, who went missing around the time her adult son killed his 11-year-old sister before killing himself.
Sgt. Chad Gallacinao of the said police were able to positively identify Martha based on a photograph. She had suffered at least one apparent gunshot wound. Nothing else was found at the scene, Gallacinao said. The Santa Clara County medical examiner's office will be conducting an investigation on her body to determine the official cause of death.
Police found the bodies of Abel Gutierrez, 27, and his sister, Lucero Luna Gutierrez, in the family's apartment on Kern Avenue in Gilroy the night of March 14. Their mother, Martha Gutierrez, was missing and police said that suggested she was likely badly injured or dead.
Investigators had been trying to locate her body since then while simultaneously developing leads based on forensic evidence and information provided by the public, Gallacinao said.
"We were always trying to review evidence to narrow down where Martha might have been located," he said.
Following up on a lead, the GPD and Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department scoured an area near the San Benito County line for four or five hours Wednesday without success, Gallacinao said.
Local residents had also been searching on their own, Gallacinao said, and a resident found Martha Gutierrez's body just before 10 a.m. today off the side of the road in the 7000 block of Pacheco Pass Highway just over the San Benito County line.
Up until today, police efforts have been focused on finding Martha, Gallacinao said. Now, the investigation will shift to establishing a timeline of events.
"We can focus on the timeline, how did this happen, when did this happen, and give the family more relief from their grief," he said.
Police will also start to develop possible motives for the killings, Gallacinao said.
"It does appear on face value that Abel did kill Martha Gutierrez and then committed suicide," he said.
Last week, police said that Abel Gutierrez, an Iraq War veteran, appeared to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Anyone with information about this case is urged to contact Detective Michael Bolton at (408) 846-0350 or an anonymous tip line at (800) 782-7463.
--Bay City News and Michelle Fitzsimmons