Murder-suicide: Iraq war veteran kills 11-year-old sister - Gilroy Dispatch: Crime Fire Courts

Murder-suicide: Iraq war veteran kills 11-year-old sister

Shooter was an Iraqi war veteran

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size


9005 Kern Avenue Gilroy CA

Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 11:39 am

Eleven-year-old South Valley Middle School student Lucero Luna described by neighbors as a “kindhearted,” “sweet little girl” was shot in the head Wednesday night by her brother, 27-year-old Abel Gutierrez, an Iraq war veteran – who then turned the gun on himself, according to the Gilroy Police Department and neighbors who knew Lucero and her mother Martha Gutierrez.

As of 7 p.m. Thursday, Gilroy police were actively searching for Lucero and Abel’s mother, 52-year-old Martha Gutierrez. Officers believe she is critically injured or deceased based on forensic evidence at the scene. Police have obtained her cell phone and are investigating “several” different leads, according to GPD Sgt. Chad Gallacinao.

He said a memo identifying Gutierrez as a missing person has been sent  statewide to other law enforcement agencies. Locally, GPD officers are requesting help from the public as they “desperately” try to find Gutierrez, whom officers believe might require “immediate medical attention.” Gallacinao said police are currently searching “everywhere” for the missing mother, although he could not comment any further as to where she could be.

Police responded to the murder-suicide around 9 p.m. Wednesday inside apartment 201 at Redwood Apartments near Mantelli Drive in northwest Gilroy, according to Gallacinao. The incident was reported by two adult roommates who rented a room in the Gutierrez’s household. The roommates, who neighbors said were between the ages of 30 and 40, came home sometime Wednesday evening. About a half hour later, they noticed the bathroom door was slightly ajar and pushed it open all the way. That’s when they discovered the bodies of Abel and Lucero.

Once medical personnel were called to the scene, they confirmed that Lucero and Abel were dead.

When asked if Abel left a note behind, Gallacinao replied “we’re still investigating the incident, and I’m unable to comment.”

There were several firearms used in the shooting, according to Gallacinao, though he could not give details on the types of firearms at this time.

Residents at Redwood are still reeling and confused following Wednesday’s discovery of Lucero and Abel, who police say was an Iraq war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Neighbors say Abel, who “just got out” of the Army and was living with his mother and younger sister Lucero in apartment 201, was struggling with depression.

“He wasn’t mentally fit,” said Mario Reyes, whose 6-year-old daughter Evenny was good friends with Lucero. “He smoked pot because he was depressed.”

Gallacinao said GPD officers have been called to the Gutierrez’s apartment in the past because his family was concerned about his mental health and the fact that he suffered from PTSD. Police had actually coordinated with Veterans Affairs to get Gutierrez help, Gallacinao said.

Dave Galtman – senior vice commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6309 in Gilroy that provides outreach, contacts and services to local veterans – said he would have to speak to his post’s personnel regarding whether Gilroy’s VFW post was in contact with, or was actively assisting Abel.

Reyes, 27, and his wife Alissa Fernandez, 25, have lived in the apartment complex below Lucero for eight years. The two sat outside their apartment in their pajamas Thursday morning, visibly shaken and holding back tears as they pieced together the evening’s surreal string of events.

Reyes saw Lucero earlier Wednesday when she came downstairs to borrow a pizza cooking sheet. Later on around 1:30 p.m., Reyes said he heard a “thumping” sound from upstairs that sounded like “something dropped.” Having lived on the bottom floor apartment for a long time however, Reyes said he was used to hearing noises from upstairs and didn’t suspect anything.

Covering his mouth with one hand and choking back tears, Reyes motioned to Lucero’s bike parked in the downstairs foyer of the apartment. Lucero and Evenny would play together every day, Reyes said.

“She was kind of in shock…then it sunk in a few minutes later because she started to cry,” said Reyes, of having to break the news to his daughter.

GPD contacted the Gilroy Unified School District about the tragedy. Around 2:20 p.m. Thursday, GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores sent an email to the Dispatch after she departed South Valley Middle School.

South Valley Principal Anisha Munshi informed teachers of the news first thing Thursday morning, Flores said. A team of 10 counselors and school psychologists assembled by 9 a.m. in the library, which was closed to establish an area where students and staff could address the tragedy in a safe environment. Flores said a poster for Lucero now hangs inside the campus for students and staff to write messages and thoughts; another hangs in the front of campus and is designated for community members.

“There is a very somber atmosphere at the campus as students and staff are trying to cope with their grief and deep sadness about the death of this student,” Flores wrote.

Standing amid watchful residents outside the Redwood apartments Thursday morning, a woman named Emily who would not give her last name described Lucero as “the best little girl in the world.”

“There was no reason to hurt her or get mad at her,” she continued.

Emily, who recently moved to Los Banos after living in the Redwood Apartments for four years, echoed Reyes when she described Abel as someone who “wasn’t sociable.”

She felt uneasy around Abel from the start, Emily said.

Describing the community at Redwood as a place where residents band together like a family and always watch out for each other, Emily said she drove straight to Gilroy Thursday morning when she heard the news from her mother, who still resides at Redwood.

“You see this?” said Emily, pointing to a cluster of children playing together nearby. “This is every day. And Lucero was a part of it every day…all these kids here are best friends…they haven’t seen proof that (Lucero) is gone…I bet they’re still waiting for her to walk out that door.”

Lucero was described by Emily as having a fun and “take-charge personality,” leading the other boys and girls in their play times.

Emily’s son Julian, 11, remembered the last time he saw Lucero. He said that the two played Power Rangers in the back of his mother’s moving truck.

“When we got the call that someone was killed, I was begging and begging that it wasn’t Lucero,” Julian said.  

Evenny Reyes, 6, daughter to Mario and Allissa Fernandez, sat on the play structure at Redwood Apartments, with several other children, looking at photos of Lucero on a friend’s cell phone.

“We were all best friends,” Evenny said.

A couple neighbors noted that parents who live at Redwood Apartments kept their children home from school Thursday.

The investigation remains “very active” at this time. The Gilroy Police Department is urging anyone with information regarding this case, or the whereabouts of Martha Gutierrez, to contact Detective Michael Bolton at (408) 846-0350. Parties wishing to remain anonymous may call We-Tip at 1-800-782-7463.

 Staff writer Carly Gelsinger contributed to this story.

  • Discuss

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
  • 2 Don't Threaten or Abuse. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated. AND PLEASE TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
  • 3 Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
  • 4 Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 5 Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 6 Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • imapigeon posted at 5:28 pm on Fri, Mar 16, 2012.

    imapigeon Posts: 8

    J9, you are SO right---all life is valuable, and you ARE special. There will come many times in your life that you'll know you were the one meant to be in a certain place at a certain time to help another person. We can't know why someone dies---especially someone young---but we can honor that person by never forgetting him or her, and doing good things in her memory. None of us can truly know what is going on inside the mind of someone suffering like Abel must have been. In a situation like this, people want to blame someone or something, but I think it's better to remember the good stuff.

  • LiberalsRstupid posted at 12:09 pm on Fri, Mar 16, 2012.

    LiberalsRstupid Posts: 294

    Until it is proven this person wasnt just another psycho why the need to blame his Military service? This is the Narrative that is always used anytime a soldier does anything crazy... Whats the "excuse" if he wasnt in the Military?

  • GilroyKid posted at 11:41 am on Fri, Mar 16, 2012.

    GilroyKid Posts: 2

    I’ts very sad and tragic to hear about this tragedy and my condolences go to the family and friends that new Lucero. Its heartbreaking to hear that this wonderful child full of life that everyone loved had to leave this earth so early. As a community we should pray for the family and friends to help them get strength through horrible tragedy.

    We should also remember that we need to speak out to our government to let them know that they are not providing the adequate mental help for our retuning soldiers. If they can pay for there training to fight war they should also be responsible for there wellbeing after serving in active war. If there was follows by the government maybe this could been avoided.

    I know people that have mental health issues that haven’t served one day in combat that receive better treatment than our soldiers. That shows you that the military system is broken and that the government needs to fix, so we can avoid tragedies like this one .

    Once again lets all pray for the families and friends that were close to Lucero and for the safety of her mother.

  • Karina posted at 11:55 pm on Thu, Mar 15, 2012.

    Karina Posts: 3

    J9 I'm so sorry about UR LOSS readin all The Beautiful things u sayn about Lucero couldn't hold bk my tears it hurts me so bad she had 2 go like dis My Prayers r w U n her Fam. It is nice 2 hear how u both met n got 2 know eachother all da fun times u 2 had 2gether is something u will always remember I'm sure she is up in Heaven smilin down on u May She Rest In Peace

  • Mr Brooks posted at 11:15 pm on Thu, Mar 15, 2012.

    Mr Brooks Posts: 72

    Unfortunately we will continue to see more of these stories as our young soldiers return home. Some of these people have spent 4, 5, 6 tours (years) overseas on hostile soil. Most people don't even realize these people have spent more time in a combat zone LONGER than any other military personnel in US history. They find it very difficult to return to "normal" after experiencing a quarter of their lives, in most cases, under fire and threat of death daily. The government needs to step up and fix what they have broken.

  • J9 posted at 10:21 pm on Thu, Mar 15, 2012.

    J9 Posts: 2

    Thank you imapigeon. What sucks is that it hits you that you won't see this person anymore and their like litterally stripped away from you. It makes you wonder why did they go? I'm not anymore special and yet im here and she's gone. She's missed by her friends, family, and even her bullies. I want my freind remembered. I hate it when people die and someone reads iy and takes it for granted. Life is valuable and we really need to hang on to those we have have and remember the ones we lost. I know Lucero is probably in Heaven singing Adele or playing tether ball with the angels. She's watching us and smiling. The people who knew lucero and I are raising money for the best funeral for her. We are called... We r still debating a name. Lucero the girl who was goofy, loved my mom's cooking, and ate hot cheetos like it was oxygen. Love you ur immortal through are memories, I promise you that u'll be remembered! [crying][innocent][wink]

  • imapigeon posted at 7:25 pm on Thu, Mar 15, 2012.

    imapigeon Posts: 8

    J9 you have written a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to your friend. I hope you have someone to talk to about your loss. You will be able to help Lucero's other friends and family by telling them how special she was to you. You have a rare gift for communicating and sharing your feelings. I hope you never stop doing it, even if you only write a journal that no one else ever sees.

  • OldTimeGilroy posted at 6:36 pm on Thu, Mar 15, 2012.

    OldTimeGilroy Posts: 169

    I will never understand why these individuals have to take other people, much less loved ones, with them. [sad]

  • J9 posted at 4:30 pm on Thu, Mar 15, 2012.

    J9 Posts: 2

    I knew Lucero ever since the first day I met her in the summer of 2008 ,i think thats when i moved to Gilroy. I was in the 2story apartments next to her. Playing outside was like a daily routine. We all played cops and robbers, wrestled, played dont touch the cement, ride bikes, play hide and go seek, and so on..... we really were all friends. Lucero was made fun of at times and at some point we all made fun of eachother but we were their for eachother. I remember all the times she came with us to go to vallejo when we were still moving and how she was a scardy cat at the pool, the beach, and at 6 flags. I got to watch her grow in those 4 years and become braver and face fears. Jusr last week her and our neighbor Urbonna came to my house. They kept singing Adele as loud as possibke and i had to correct their lyrical errors and then after that my parents took us to mac donalds. We had fun and it was night so we dared eachother to go in the play set. We ran in and out together a few times. I stayed and hid in it. They got creeped out but finally got the nerves to go up and find me and it suddenly turned into hide and go seek tag in mac donalds play set 10:00 during a school night. Their parents never cared cuz lucero's mom trusted us to take care if her and she basically was alittle sister to me. Her mom and my mom became friends evethough they barely understood eachither. I have so many memories withher. All the times we cried together ehen we were picked on andvall the laughs and secrets. Simply gone now. She talked about her brother like he was a hero. She loved him and i know deep own he cared for lucero like a daughter. He took her to disneyland and shed brag about all the money he had and how he was like her dad. I even saw him on wednesday. He was walking around infrint our apt and was looking for Lucero. I told him i didnt know. If only i knew and couldve done something then maybe lucero would still be here and grown up to be a teacher or a singer. I know one thing for sure Lucero was killed by her hero. She will remain in our hearts and shell always be my little sister. She came to me fo anything and im glad ive gotten to know this little girl . RIP, i WILL ALWAYS REMBER AND LVE YOU! SEE YOU AGAIN AMIEGA!oo[beam][sad]