Defense team pours over video ahead of murder trial

By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

One of the lawyers representing a California teenager accused of stabbing a 34-year-old Grafton man to death in his home last year told an Ozaukee County judge Monday that the defense team has examined more than 100 pieces of evidence and is analyzing days-worth of video footage from cameras in the home ahead of what could be a more than week-long trial in April.

Whether the video will shed light on the puzzling case involving 18-year-old Crystal E. Gutierrez, who was a high school senior living in Paramount, Calif., when police said Brent Fitch — the man she is accused of killing — picked her up and brought her to his house at 904 S. Spring St. in Grafton, is unclear.

But if the footage does provide insight into what happened inside the Grafton house where Gutierrez apparently lived for several days, it and expert witness testimony promise to be significant factors at trial.

Rachel Boaz, a public defender representing the teenager, told Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy Monday that a “trauma expert” hired by the defense team has interviewed Gutierrez and a report is pending.

In addition, Malloy last month ordered Gutierrez to be examined by Deborah Collins, a psychologist who serves as director of the Wisconsin Forensics Unit, a private clinic that works with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The judge’s order came in response to Gutierrez’s plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to a charge of first-degree intentional homicide.

That plea sets up the possibility of a two-part trial.

First, a jury would have to decide if Gutierrez killed Fitch. If the jury acquits her, the case is closed. 

But if Gutierrez is convicted, then the jury would have to decide whether, as a result of mental disease or defect, she lacked the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her action or conform her behavior to the law and therefore is not responsible for the crime.

If she is convicted but not held responsible for her crime, Gutierrez would be committed to the custody of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and placed in an institution unless the judge determines she would not pose a danger to herself or others if released.

But if she’s convicted and held responsible for killing Fitch, Gutierrez would face life in prison.

When asked by Malloy if the six days scheduled for the trial that is to begin on April 27 is sufficient, Boaz said more time would likely be needed if the second phase is required.

  The case against Gutierrez began unfolding at 2:20 a.m. May 3 when her 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, according to the criminal complaint.

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

Gutierrez 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.

Grafton Police Capt. Joseph Gabrish said in May that authorities did not know what Gutierrez’s comment meant.

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

Among the evidence authorities recovered from the house was footage from interior video cameras, Gabrish said.

When asked what the purpose of the cameras was, Gabrish said, “He just had cameras in his house for whatever reason.”

Gutierrez has been held in the Ozaukee County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail since the stabbing. In June, Malloy rejected a motion filed by Gutierrez’s lawyers to reduce her bail to $10,000.

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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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