Mom of Calif. war vet in murder-suicide found dead

March 23, 2012 - 12:15 AM
War Veteran Murder Suicide

In this photo provided by Gilroydispatch.com, a San Benito County Sheriff enters the scene where the body of Martha Gutierrez was found Thursday March 22, 2012 in San Benito County, Calif. Authorities confirmed that a body found on a San Benito County road was the missing mother of an Iraq war veteran who fatally shot his 11-year-old sister before killing himself last week, family members say. Martha Gutierrez had been missing since the bodies of her children were found, and police had said there was evidence she was the victim of violence in her son’s car. (AP Photo/Gilroydispatch.com, Nick Lovejoy)

GILROY, Calif. (AP) — The missing mother of an Iraq war veteran who is believed to have killed his family in a murder-suicide was found dead Thursday near a rural Northern California road, police said.

Gilroy police and volunteers had been looking for 52-year-old Martha Gutierrez since last week, after the bodies of her children, Abel, 27, and Lucero, 11, were found in their apartment.

Investigators believe Abel Gutierrez, a National Guardsman, fatally shot his mother and sister before turning the gun on himself.

Gilroy police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao told The Associated Press that authorities have positively identified the woman, and the family has been notified.

Investigators on Wednesday had asked citizens in a rural part of Santa Clara and San Benito counties to keep an eye out for the body, after evidence led them to the area.

On Thursday, the volunteers found the body under bushes off the highway. Gutierrez had one apparent gunshot wound, Gallacinao said.

"Our first priority was locating Martha Gutierrez, now we will try to figure out when and how (her death) happened," he said.

Family members told the San Jose Mercury News (http://bit.ly/GP9MZt ) that authorities summoned them to the location of the body near the border of the two counties.

Kristell Gutierrez said authorities confirmed the body belonged to her aunt.

"We were hoping she was alive, but we kind of knew that she wasn't going to be," she told the newspaper. "We're just happy she's been found."

Family members have said they suspected Abel Gutierrez suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that they had been upset by his talk of suicide and brandishing of guns.

Two weeks before the killings, on Feb. 29, a Gilroy police officer responded to a service call at the apartment. Yet Abel Gutierrez' family told the officer they did not feel threatened, so Gutierrez was not placed on a psychological hold, police said.

Gutierrez moved to Washington's Army National Guard from the U.S. Army in 2008, the Army said. He served in Iraq in 2009 and 2010, and had been receiving treatment at a VA facility in Puget Sound, Wash.

At the time of his death, Gutierrez was transferring to California's Army National Guard.