Top 10 Local News Stories of 2018: No. 4 — Rita Gutierrez-Garcia Disappears, Still Missing More than Nine Months Later
Top 10 local news stories of 2018
Through Dec.31, the Times-Call will count down the top stories of the year, as selected by the newspaper’s editors.
10. Longmont high school teams post successful post-seasons
9. Longmont allows recreational marijuana shops
8. Police officers cleared in shooting death of Gillie Thurby III
7. Longmont adopts 100 percent energy-renewable goal
6. Mile-Hi Skydiving under scrutiny after skydiver death, noise controversy
5. Longmont passes affordable housing mandate
4. Rita Gutierrez-Garcia disappears, still missing more than nine months later
Rita Gutierrez-Garcia, a 34-year-old Longmont mother of three, has now been missing for more than nine months.
Gutierrez-Garcia was last seen in the early hours of March 18, after celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with friends and family in downtown Longmont. She was last seen walking to a parking lot behind a downtown bar in the 300 block of Main Street.
Shortly after Guterriez-Garcia was reported missing, police searched Golden Ponds for “evidence.” Her family then held a prayer vigil in Thompson Park.
While Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty has named a suspect in the disappearance of Gutierrez-Garcia, he has not charged anyone in the case.
Dougherty said in an email that the investigation is “ongoing,” and that “when (or) if there is a development, we will not delay in moving forward with the next steps.
“Longmont (police) and our office are continuing to work closely in exploring every possible avenue for finding Rita and holding those involved responsible for her disappearance,” he said.
Longmont police are offering a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to Rita Gutierrez-Garcia or the arrest of a suspect in her disappearance. Anyone with information is asked to call 303-774-3700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Longmont police Cmdr. Joel Post said he couldn’t comment on the case because it is an ongoing investigation.
Police on May 7 announced that they believe Gutierrez-Garcia is dead , and they had identified a “person of interest” in the case. While little information was offered for some time after her disappearance, police eventually named the suspect in the case as Juan Jose Figueroa, Jr., who they arrested shortly after her disappearance when he crossed back over the U.S.-Mexico border.
Figueroa, 29, is charged in a violent sexual assault case and is being held in Boulder County Jail on a $1 million bond. The victim said she met him while out with friends in downtown Longmont on Thanksgiving in 2017. When they went to his residence, she told police he strangled her until she lost consciousness and raped her, according to an arrest affidavit.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges, for which he could receive a life sentence, and a jury trial is scheduled to begin March 11 in Boulder County District Court.
Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, email@example.com