Jury in 2nd case finds Valpo man guilty of child molesting
By James D. Wolf jr. Post-Tribune correspondent March 20, 2013 7:58PM
Updated: April 22, 2013 12:08PM
VALPARAISO — At his second trial on child molesting charges, a jury took less than three hours to find a Valparaiso man guilty.
Arthur Gutierrez Jr., 33, faces 20 to 50 years in prison when sentenced on April 19 to Class A felony child molesting.
When he was tried in August on similar charges involving a mentally handicapped girl, the jury remained deadlocked with 11 jurors voting not guilty.
Jurors this time found Gutierrez guilty of molesting a girl — whose mother he lived with — between February 2005 and July 2009, when the girl was 4 to 7 years old.
Defense attorney Bob Harper had argued in his closing that the case had the earmarks of a wrongful accusation.
Gutierrez was caught in the middle of family feuds with family members who did not like him, and police investigations stopped almost entirely after police found the victim’s story believable, Harper argued.
Harper portrayed the victim’s family as dysfunctional, fighting over the $60,000 in insurance money that came after a fire at the trailer Gutierrez, the victim, her mother and their son lived in.
There was also an incident where the victim’s mother was injured and her sister called police on Gutierrez, only to find that the victim’s grandmother was arrested for striking the victim’s mother, Harper said.
The victim’s aunt had always questioned the child on whether Gutierrez had touched her inappropriately, and in February 2011, the family said the victim admitted it after a three-hour questioning.
Harper said the questioning was biased and noted it began about 6 p.m., but they went to the police at 7 p.m., according to police records.
Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Buitendorp said the defense used family problems as a desperate attempt to draw attention away from what Gutierrez had done.
The adults had no reason to go after Gutierrez nine months after he broke up with the mother, but they had noticed inappropriate behavior from the victim.
That included sexual body contact with cousins during sleepovers and asking boys at school to pull down their pants.
She also reminded the jury that the victim’s testimony included descriptions that children her age shouldn’t know.
“These are not details that an adult coaches a child on,” Buitendorp said.
Although Buitendorp did go through testimony with the victim before the trial, a child wouldn’t be able to consistently recall details her family or anyone coached her on with accuracy, she said.