Pictured is Raymond Gutierrez and his girlfriend, Desiree Rios. This picture was taken only a week before Gutierrez’s death, his parents said.
FONTANA — As his murder case was set to go to trial today, a man charged with shooting and killing a man at a Fontana house party in 2005 accepted a plea bargain that carries a prison term of nearly 50 years.
Javier Salcido Ortega, 25, opted for the plea bargain rather than risk a life prison sentence if convicted by a jury of murder.
Ortega was accused of shooting and killing 24-year-old Raymond Gutierrez on Oct. 16, 2005 at a house party on Huff Court, a small cul-de-sac near the intersection of Merrill and Elm avenues.
According to prosecutors and Gutierrez’s parents, the two men did know each other prior to the early morning incident that ended in Gutierrez’s death.
Ortega and a group of his friends attacked Gutierrez, of Rialto, over a minor squabble, according to Gutierrez’s parents, first knocking him to the ground with a punch, then kicking him repeatedly once he was on the ground.
Ortega then shot Gutierrez three times with a handgun, with two of the bullets piercing his heart, said Deputy District Attorney Daima Calhoun.
Following five days of jury selection in Fontana Superior Court, Ortega’s defense attorney, Dan Mangan, approached prosecutors this morning with a bid to resolve the case, Calhoun said.
Mangan asked prosecutors if they would allow Ortega — who faced a sentence of up to 50 years to life if convicted at trial — to plead guilty to charges that carried a determinate sentence 47 years and 8 months, Calhoun said.
It was unclear this morning whether Ortega himself was open to such an offer, but after mulling it over during the court’s lunchtime break he agreed to take the deal.
Calhoun’s supervisors at the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office also signed off on the deal, Calhoun said.
With time he’s spent in custody deducted from his sentence, Ortega could be released from prison in about 36 years if he is well-behaved, Judge Dwight W. Moore told Ortega today.
Ortega, who was 21 at the time of the shooting, would be in his early 60s if released in 2045.
Gutierrez’s parents said after the hearing that they were unhappy with the plea bargain.
“He’s got a lot of time to do, but I really was looking forward to (a) life (sentence),” said Fidel Gutierrez, Raymond Gutierrez’s father. “That’s what I wanted, that’s what my wife wanted, but it didn’t turn out that way.”
Calhoun said Ortega’s case was a strong case for the district attorney’s office, but she felt the plea bargain was “in the best interest of the case” because jury trials are “always a gamble.”
Jurors would have had the option of convicting Ortega of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter — Ortega would have faced a maximum sentence of 21 years if convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Calhoun said.
Mangan declined to comment as he left the courtroom.
Gutierrez’s family members tearfully recalled their son and his death today.
Fidel Gutierrez said his son’s girlfriend, Desiree Rios, was pregnant with the couple’s daughter at the time of the shooting.
Raymond Gutierrez, a former Fontana High School student, had been working, supporting his family, and was enjoying life when he was gunned down at the Fontana house party, Fidel Gutierrez said.
“Everything was going good at the time,” Fidel Gutierrez said.
Ortega and his friends were members of a “party crew” that trolled late-night gatherings looking to start fights, Fidel Gutierrez said.
“They went there looking for trouble … my son happened to bump into (Ortega),” Fidel Gutierrez said.
Ortega and other men knocked out Raymond Gutierrez when they jumped him, Fidel Gutierrez said. He was lying on the ground helpless when he was shot.
“There’s no sense in it,” he said.
Ortega was arrested in February 2006 after eluding police for several months, Calhoun said.
Ortega pleaded guilty today to voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, assault with a semi-automatic firearm and assault with a deadly weapon.
The charges contained allegations that Ortega committed the crimes for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Ortega is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 25. Gutierrez’s family members are expected to make statements about the case during the hearing, Calhoun said.
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