Juan Jose Figueroa Jr. on Friday pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement that included Figueroa taping a confession to the murder of Rita Gutierrez-Garcia and revealing to authorities where to find her body.

Figueroa, 33, pleaded guilty Friday in Boulder District Court to second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.

Figueroa was initially indicted by a grand jury on counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, felony murder and second-degree kidnapping in the death of Gutierrez-Garcia, who went missing in Longmont in 2018.

He is already serving a 93-year to life sentence in Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City on an unrelated sex assault conviction.

As part of the plea agreement Figueroa will serve 48 years on the second-degree murder count, the maximum sentence on the charge, consecutive to the sex assault sentence.

Gutierrez-Garcia has been missing since March 18, 2018, when she was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with friends and family at bars in downtown Longmont. She was last seen in a city parking lot behind 3’s Bar.

Figueroa was named as the primary suspect early on in the case, but with no body, prosecutors were only able to present the case to a grand jury in April 2021 as a “no body homicide.”

According to the grand jury indictment, Figueroa was arrested March 27, 2018, in Texas on a warrant for the Boulder County sexual assault case after he was stopped by Customs and Border Patrol agents as he was crossing back into the U.S. from Mexico.

When Texas officials told him the warrant was for sexual assault and that he was likely to be extradited, the indictment states that Figueroa responded, “That’s the only warrant? That’s it? … Just sex assault? … Sweet, let’s get this over and done with so I can get my bond, get it posted.”

The indictment also states Figueroa told a cellmate that he had strangled Gutierrez-Garcia after punching her into unconsciousness after she called him a “weirdo.” The indictment states he said her body was in “an area not accessible to the public.”

A separate witness testified before a grand jury that Figueroa said he had buried Gutierrez-Garcia’s body and that “the only way anyone would find it is if police inserted a probe into his brain,” according to the indictment.

The indictment also states that investigators found DNA evidence that confirms Gutierrez-Garcia was in Figueroa’s pickup. Cellphone data from early March 18, 2018, also shows that her cellphone traveled the same path as the pickup until it was turned off at 3:10 a.m., just after Longmont Police dispatch received a hang-up 911 call at 3:07 a.m. Dispatchers tried calling back twice but got no answer.

Following cooperation that was a condition of the plea agreement, Figueroa led investigators to search an area in Weld County, where Gutierrez-Garcia’s remains were recovered April 28.

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Mitchell Byars
2022-06-03 19:48:16
Boulder Daily Camera
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