Theresa Gutierrez, youngest of five sisters, devoted Harry Potter fan and aspiring college graduate, was returning home from running an errand in January 2020 when the driver of a stolen Mercedes-Benz, fleeing from police, ran a red light at an intersection in Opa-locka and struck her car.
Gutierrez, 28, died, shattering a tight-knit family. The driver of the stolen car, Jason Felix Gonzalez, 25, is now going to prison for a decade.
Gonzalez pleaded guilty on Tuesday to vehicular homicide, agreeing to 10 years in prison and two years probation. In a Miami-Dade courtroom, Gonzalez tearfully apologized to Gutierrez’s four sisters, who expressed anger about his actions that day.
“She deserved to survive that accident,” said her sister, Edda Moncada, 42. “You are the one who deserved to die that day.”
Another sister, Nancy Velasquez, 44, said, “I hope you live every day with your guilt.”
On the night of Jan. 3, 2020, detectives from Miami-Dade Police’s Robbery Intervention Detail came across the stolen Mercedes-Benz in Northwest Miami-Dade. Detectives flashed their lights and blared their sirens to pull the car over, but the driver of the Mercedes-Benz sped off.
According to police, the detectives did not chase the car, but stayed put and radioed other officers. Moments later, the Mercedes-Benz knifed through the intersection of Northwest 135th Street and Seventh Avenue, hitting a Scion. Gutierrez was in the passenger seat and her boyfriend was driving.
The couple was returning from the Home Depot, where they’d gone to pick up cleaning supplies and bins to store Christmas decorations.
Gutierrez died instantly. Her boyfriend, Luis Tirado, was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in critical condition. He survived.
Prosecutors charged Gonzalez with vehicle theft, fleeing and eluding police and reckless vehicular homicide — all felonies — and a misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended license.
At Tuesday’s sentencing, prosecutor Justin Funck showed the judge a video presentation of Gutierrez with snapshots from her life: celebrating a birthday, hugging one of her nephews, smiling broadly in her high school graduation gown.
Gutierrez worked for nearly a decade as a FedEx driver. She had enrolled in Miami-Dade College, hoping for a career as a teacher.
“She always loved kids and being around so many nephews, it was her passion,” Moncada said in an interview.
“I hope her memory continues to be a blessing to you,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Miguel de la O told the sisters in court. “I know 10 years in prison is no substitute for your sister.”