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Inconclusive DNA evidence leads to theft sentence in rape case

Jerzy Shedlock

Unable to come up with conclusive DNA evidence against an Anchorage man accused of raping two women in a downtown hotel room in 2013, prosecutors offered a plea deal to Robert Mitchell Gutierrez, and the young man was sentenced on Friday for a single second-degree theft charge.

A grand jury originally handed up 11 felony charges against Gutierrez: four counts of first-degree sex assault, five counts of second-degree sex assault, third-degree assault and theft. Everything except the theft charge was dropped as part of a plea deal.

The state's Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory "just wasn't able to come up with conclusive evidence that he committed the sex assaults," said state prosecutor Paul Miovas. "The bottom line is we didn't have DNA after the tests, so the state didn't feel comfortable moving forward with the sex assault charges any further."

An Anchorage Superior Court judge imposed a year of jail time and three years of probation. Miovas said Gutierrez did not have a criminal history prior to the theft conviction.

Difficult in most rape cases involving second-degree sexual assault, Miovas added, is that the accuser was often unconscious or incapacitated. The state often relies on the corroboration of others to strengthen evidence against offenders. Prosecutors lacked such evidence in the case against Gutierrez.

Anchorage police arrested the 18-year-old defendant last year after investigators said he raped two women, ages 19 and 21, who were visiting from Soldotna on a shopping trip. Gutierrez allegedly met one of the women online. She had agreed to meet up with him after shopping on March 16, 2013.

Prosecutors say Gutierrez showed up at the women's Marriott hotel room with alcohol and marijuana later that night.

The women checked Gutierrez's ID to confirm his identity, investigators reported, and invited him into the room. Gutierrez allegedly made advances toward one of the women, which she refused, and she later fell asleep.

Investigators said that while she was asleep, Gutierrez sexually assaulted the other woman and strangled and smothered her, causing her to pass out. The following morning, the woman who had declined Gutierrez's advances awoke to find herself naked from the waist down. The women's cell phones, cash and some belongings were also missing.

Anchorage police issued a press release after Gutierrez was charged, stating, "Both women underwent an examination which revealed that Gutierrez had sexually assaulted both women. Although the (hotel's) security system captured images of Gutierrez, he denied having ever been away from his home during the night and also denied knowing either of the females."

As part of the state's plea agreement conditions, Gutierrez was required to write a letter of apology to the court for the victims, and he reportedly apologized Friday during his sentencing. One of his accusers gave a "compelling victim impact statement" during the hearing as well, Miovas said.

The state kept the women who accused Guiterrez of rape in the loop throughout the court process, and they agreed with the prosecutor's decisions, according to Miovas. He said the state does not plan on pursuing any charges related to the case in the future.

Reach Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy@alaskadispath.com.


By JERZY SHEDLOCK
jerzy@alaskadispatch.com