Authorities shed light on mysterious Grafton murder

They say California teen was brought to village by man she met online and is charged with stabbing to death
Ozaukee Press staff

A high school senior from California who is at the center of a mysterious Ozaukee County murder case was brought to Grafton by the man she is accused of stabbing to death in his home on May 3 after meeting him online, Capt. Joseph Gabrish of the Grafton Police Department said Tuesday.

“He went out there (to California) and brought her back here,” Gabrish said of 34-year-old Grafton resident Brent Fitch and the 18-year-old accused of killing him, Crystal E. Gutierrez. 

“It was consensual, at least at first.”

Among the evidence investigators continue to examine is footage from cameras found inside Fitch’s house at 904 S. Spring St., Gabrish said.

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

Gutierrez was at Fitch’s house for less than a week before she was found by police around 2:30 a.m. Friday, May 3, on a street near Fitch’s house screaming for help and covered in blood, Gabrish said. 

She was arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

Gutierrez appeared in Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy’s courtroom Tuesday for an arrignment and motion hearing during which Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Sisley and one of Gutierrez’s lawyers, public defender Wilfred de Junco, told Malloy that Fitch brought Gutierrez to Grafton. 

“Do you know how she got here?” the judge asked. “I know very little about the facts. The complaint is very basic and doesn’t shed any light on what happened.”

Malloy’s comments came after de Junco entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Gutierrez but said that could be changed to a special plea, such as not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, depending on the evidence that is still being uncovered and the opinion of defense experts.

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 naked from the waist down and covered in blood, 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.

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.

During Gutierrez’s initial court appearance on May 6, her other lawyer, public defender Rachel Boaz, said Gutierrez was a victim and needs “mental health help.”

On Tuesday, de Junco asked Malloy to reduce Gutierrez’s bail from $100,000 to $10,000, noting that she has no criminal record and no money.

“Ms. Gutierrez is 18. She’s still in high school,” he said. “As the court probably realizes, she doesn’t have any money at all.”

She already spent more than a month in jail, and it is likely to be another three months before defense experts have access to key evidence, de Junco said. 

He noted that according to the conditions of her bail, Gutierrez, whose mother, grandmother and uncle were in the courtroom Tuesday, would have to remain in Ozaukee County if released.

But Sisley opposed the motion, saying, “She’s an 18-year-old who has no contacts with the State of Wisconsin and is charged with first-degree intentional homicide.” 

Noting the seriousness of the charge, Malloy ruled that Gutierrez’s bail will remain at $100,000.

She is scheduled to appear in court again on Aug. 14 for a possible change of plea.

Gutierrez’s four-day trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 7.

First-degree intentional homicide is punishable by life in prison.


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Ozaukee Press

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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