Wednesday, January 30, 2008

21-mile crime scene: Pacific Palisades murder case turns out to be one of the oddest in LAPD history

The dead body that was driven up to the pumps at the Mobil station in the heart of Pacific Palisades, California Monday morning turns out to be at the center of one of the most head-scratching mysteries in the history of Los Angeles crime.

TabloidBaby.com reported exclusively, with exclusive photos, Monday morning, on the crime scene we’d happened upon a few minutes earlier on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Swarthmore Avenue. LA County Coroner’s workers were removing a woman’s corpse that had been stuffed into the back of a Honda Prelude. Police at the scene told us that the woman had gotten into a “domestic dispute” with her boyfriend—the driver-- in the middle of the rain, in the middle of the night, in the middle of Sunset, and that the boyfriend had run over her and a second male and driven the bodies to the pumps, where 911 was called.

The male victim had been taken to the hospital, the suspect was under arrest and the car was impounded as the murder weapon.

Now the story’s gotten even wilder. The Los Angeles Times catches up to the story this morning and reports that it’s one of the LAPD’s oddest cases ever-- more a "where-dunnit" than a "whodunit."

The Times reports that “after a night of drinking at a Silver Lake club, police say, Carlos Gutierrez got so angry at his girlfriend and his uncle early Monday morning that he ordered them out of his car and into a pounding rainstorm. Then he threatened to run them over.”

As the pair walked away, 25-year-old Gutierrez allegedly gunned the engine of his Prelude and plowed into them.

"Yet it's what Gutierrez allegedly did next that has some veteran homicide investigators scratching their heads."

According to police, Gutierrez piled his mortally wounded girlfriend, Yolanda Martinez, 37, into the vehicle's back seat and propped up his uncle in the passenger seat. Then he drove to the Mobil station in the Palisades, where it all came to end.

“As Gutierrez reportedly struggled to operate a gas pump…his uncle -- whose leg was shattered -- dragged himself out of the car and began screaming for help, authorities say. That's when people started calling 911.”

The Times’ Andrew Blankstein says cops call the incident “an odd one, even by Los Angeles standards.”

“Odder still is the fact that investigators have yet to determine exactly where the slaying occurred.

“The Silver Lake Lounge, in Sunset Junction, where the night apparently began to sour, and the gas station near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Swarthmore Avenue are 21 miles apart. Neither Gutierrez nor the uncle -- whom police have not identified -- seem to be able to remember where the crime occurred.”

That could make sleepy Pacific Palisades an innocent bystander, and former Mayor Riordan's new restaurant (the target of brazen, gun-toting robbers in its earlier incarnation as Mort's Deli) all that much safer. Gutierrez is being held without bail on suspicion of murder and attempted murder. His uncle was treated for a compound leg fracture.

From the state of the Honda Prelude, we’d figured that the suspect and victim had not been on their way home from the SAG awards. But we had a feeling, with the crime scene being so close to Riordan’s restaurant and under a Sunset Blvd. street sign, and by the the distinct look of that detective (Does he look like a detective or what? A cross between Columbo, Monk and-- no offense-- Inspector Clouseau, we’d say-- and we bet he'd make a great reality show), that if it didn’t play into a Michael Connelly novel, it would at least turn out to rate an anecdote from a cop character in a Joseph Wambaugh book.

Photos © TabloidBaby.com


LA Observed said...

Palisades murder a drive-to, not drive-by

Guy plowed into his girlfriend and uncle after getting into an argument at a Silver Lake club, then dumped them in Pacific Palisades.

Anonymous said...

Let's find out why the guy decided to opt for the Santa Monica Mountains gateway and the Topanga State park locations over Griffith Park?
I'm just saying that it used to be Griffith Park was the #1 body dump site, but it could be that those are serial killers rather than fits of alcohol induced rage.
He'd have made it easy to GP without the need to gas up. Maybe he was familiar with the Palisades route from working there?
The answer must be in the alcohol rather than any rational thought patterns I'm working through.

personal injury lawyer in California said...

I'm thinking it's alcohol too, I just talked with a criminal lawyer in Los Angeles CA and they heard that it was something else, maybe weed, but that doesn't sound right