Remains of Colorado mom found 4 years after she went missing

·2 min read

The remains of a Colorado mother of three have been recovered more than four years after she went missing, the Boulder District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

Rita Gutierrez-Garcia was 34 years old when she was last seen near downtown Longmont around 2:30 a.m. on March 18, 2018, at a bar celebrating Saint Patrick's Day, CBS Denver reported.

The investigation into her disappearance included dozens of interviews and search warrants, hundreds of tips and leads, and the use of forensic testing to identify DNA evidence, officials said.

Eventually, "information was provided to the District Attorney's Office and Longmont Department of Public Safety, including the exact location of Rita's remains," the DA's office said without elaborating.

Human remains were found east of Longmont in Weld County on April 28. On that date, according to the Boulder DA's Office, investigators told Rita's family that those remains were likely that of Rita.

There was no identification or property found at the site. Just weeks later, on May 19, preliminary DNA analysis confirmed those remains are that of Gutierrez-Garcia.

Rita Gutierrez-Garcia  / Credit: CBS Denver
Rita Gutierrez-Garcia / Credit: CBS Denver

"The recovery is the culmination of a years-long effort to hold her killer responsible and to recover Rita's remains," the DA's office said.

Juan Figueroa Jr., 33, was identified early in the investigation as a possible suspect in Rita's disappearance. In June of last year, Figueroa Jr. was indicted by a grand jury for the first-degree murder and kidnapping of Gutierrez-Garcia, even though her body had not been found. According to the grand jury indictment, Figueroa told a cellmate that he had strangled Guierrez-Garcia and buried her in a place that he never plans to reveal to anyone.

"This is no longer a missing person investigation," said Rita's sister through the Boulder DA's Office.

Figueroa is currently serving a 93-years-to-life sentence in prison in Buena Vista for his conviction in a Longmont sex assault case in 2017.

His next court date is scheduled for June 3 where he is expected to plead guilty and a judge will deliver a sentence.

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