Colorado inmate gets 48 years for kidnapping, killing woman

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — A man who was charged in the death of a woman who went missing in northern Colorado in 2018 pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.

Juan Figueroa Jr., 33, entered his plea in the death of Rita Gutierrez-Garcia and was sentenced to 48 years in prison, the Boulder Daily Camera reported. He is already serving a sentence of 93 years to life on an unrelated sex assault conviction. The terms will run consecutively.

Gutierrez-Garcia, a mother of three, went missing 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.

Figueroa was named the primary suspect, and prosecutors presented their case to a grand jury in April 2021 as a “no body homicide.” According to the 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 Protection agents while crossing back into the U.S. from Mexico.

Investigators said he told a cellmate he punched Gutierrez-Garcia into unconsciousness and strangled her after she called him a “weirdo.” DNA evidence and cellphone data also linked him to Gutierrez-Garcia’s death, according to the indictment.

As part of a plea deal, Figueroa led investigators to an area in northern Colorado’s Weld County, where Gutierrez-Garcia’s remains were recovered April 28.

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