Trial of New Milford man accused of fatally stabbing estranged wife heads to jury
|Defense attorney Brian Neary Closing Statement by Aggie Kenny|
|Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer closing statement by Elizabeth Williams|
A New Milford man raped and murdered his wife when she was about to leave him and then tried to flee overseas, Bergen County prosecutors said Thursday, while a defense attorney told jurors that the man stabbed his wife either in self defense or in the heat of passion during a violent altercation.
Pedro Gutierrez was jealous and full of rage when he learned that Shaday Betancourt, 23, was planning to return to her native Colombia to start a new life without him, said Wayne Mello, a Bergen County assistant prosecutor, as he made his closing remarks in Gutierrez's trial in Superior Court in Hackensack.
Gutierrez, 27, had seen photos of his wife with other men on Facebook, and had told one acquaintance that if he ever caught her with another man, he would kill her, Mello said.
Armed with a knife and zip ties, Gutierrez went to a Teaneck apartment where Betancourt was staying on Oct. 4, 2011, said Danielle Grootenboer, another Bergen County assistant prosecutor who also made closing remarks on Thursday. Gutierrez sexually assaulted Betancourt, tied her hands and stabbed her six times, she said.
Betancourt's brother later found her bloodied and unconscious, and with help from a neighbor, rushed the woman to Englewood Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, prosecutors said at the time.
Witnesses testified during the trial that Gutierrez left the apartment, bought a one-way ticket to Colombia and boarded a plane at John F. Kennedy Airport, but was arrested in Orlando, Fla., during a stopover.
When questioned by police, Gutierrez said he went to Betancourt's apartment that day, and that the two had voluntary, bondage sex. Gutierrez told investigators that Betancourt then attacked him with a knife before he eventually got hold of the weapon and stabbed her.
Defense attorney Brian Neary said during his closing argument Thursday that prosecutors did not prove that Gutierrez made any plans to kill Betancourt, which they need to do to prove murder. He said there was no evidence of a sexual assault, no evidence of forced entry into the apartment and no evidence that he was the one who brought the knife.
Had he planned to kill Betancourt, he would not have done it in the middle of the day, and would not have bought his ticket with cash at the airport, Neary said. The attempted escape was that of “a frightened young man, not a diabolical man who plotted and executed this brutal murder,” Neary said.
Grootenboer, meanwhile, mocked Gutierrez's story as fictitious, and asked jurors to disregard Gutierrez's portrayal of Betancourt as “a naked, knife-wielding ninja from a Quentin Tarantino movie.”
She also told jurors that even by Gutierrez's account, the stabbing cannot amount to self defense since Gutierrez is claiming that he disarmed Betancourt during the fight. New Jersey law, which defines self-defense very narrowly, does not permit the use of deadly force against an unarmed person.
Gutierrez is charged with murder, felony murder, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, burglary and hindering apprehension. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations next week. Gutierrez's trial, which opened Oct. 1, 2014, was delayed by nearly two months because of the discovery of potentially crucial DNA evidence.
|Prosecutor Wayne Mello gives final closing statement|