California teen charged with killing Grafton man

High school student found running down street, screaming for help and covered in blood said she stabbed victim, complaint says

GRAFTON POLICE last week cordoned off a house on Spring Street where they said a 34-year-old man was stabbed to death by a high school student from California. Crystal Gutierrez is charged in Ozaukee County Circuit Court with first-degree intentional homicide. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

An 18-year-old high school student from California who police officers found running down a Grafton street wearing only a T-shirt and covered with blood has been charged in Ozaukee County Circuit Court with stabbing a 34-year-old man to death at his home last week.

Crystal E. Gutierrez, who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Paramount, faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the death of Brent Fitch of Grafton last week.

According to the criminal complaint, at 2:20 a.m. Friday, May 3, Gutierrez’s mother called authorities in Ozaukee County from California to report that her daughter sent her a text message pleading for help and included an address on Spring Street in Grafton.

  Officers began searching the area and found Gutierrez, who was naked from the waist down and covered in blood, running and screaming for help.

Gutierrez, who according to Grafton police was apparently staying with Fitch, told officers that she had woken up and “the family was standing around her,” and that she then began stabbing Fitch with a scissors and knife, the complaint states.

Authorities are still trying to make sense of her comments, but Capt. Joseph Gabrish of the Grafton Police Department said this week, “I can tell you that her family was not standing around her.”

Officers knew where Fitch lived, and at his 904 Spring St. home they found the front door open and a blood trail. His body was found face down on the floor of a bedroom.

“She (Gutierrez) was here to visit him (Fitch),” Gabrish said, adding that investigators continue to piece together the bizarre case. “They apparently had some sort of arrangement to meet.

“This is not a straightforward case by any means. He’s not here to answer questions and she’s lawyered up, so we’re digging all the way to California and back.”

During Gutierrez’s initial court appearance Monday, her lawyer, public defender Rachel Boaz, said Gutierrez, whose parents had traveled from California to attend the hearing, was a victim and needs “mental health help.”

Boaz requested that Gutierrez be released from jail in lieu of $10,000 bail and be allowed to return to California with her parents while awaiting trail.

Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Sandy Williams instead followed the recommendation of District Attorney Adam Gerol by setting bail at $100,000 and ordering Gutierrez not to leave Ozaukee County if she is released.

First-degree intentional homicide carries a life prison sentence.

The last time police investigated a murder in Grafton was 1982 when Christopher Mohr was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death at his home on Jan. 26.

Brothers Jeffrey and Kent Denny of Grafton, who were 17 and 19 at the time of the homicide, were convicted of first-degree murder after a nine-day trial in November 1982.

During a John Doe hearing that preceded the trial, Trent Denny, the brother of Kent and Jeffrey, testified that shortly after he was released from jail on an unrelated matter, Kent and Jeffrey told him they killed Mohr.

According to Trent’s testimony, Kent gave him the following account of the murder:

Kent said he and Jeffrey went to Mohr’s home on Jan. 26, 1982, and Kent asked Mohr how he was. When Mohr replied he was fine, Kent stabbed him in the stomach and asked him how he was feeling then, according to the complaint.

Jeffrey then took the knife and began stabbing Mohr while Kent broke a mariju-ana bong over Mohr’s head.

Jeffrey and Kent Denny were sentenced to life in prison. 

Kent died in 2012. Jeffrey remains in prison, where he has spent years appealing his conviction. His request to have evidence tested for DNA decades after the murder was considered by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin but ultimately denied.

Ozaukee Press reporter Joe Poirier contributed to this story.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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