Sentence cut in tub drowning

NASHUA – A Superior Court judge has agreed to suspend, with conditions, the final year of Melissa Gutierrez’s five- to 10-year State Prison term after Gutierrez, who pleaded guilty to negligently causing the 2011 drowning death of her son, assured the judge her string of bad behavior has gradually lessened "and recently gone away entirely."

Judge Charles S. Temple last week granted Gutierrez’s motion, which her attorney, public defender Anthony Sculimbrene, filed on her behalf on May 10, according to documents filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court South.

Gutierrez, 31, was initially charged with several offenses stemming from the death on Aug. 25, 2011, of 8-month-old Christian Ntapalis, who drowned in the bathtub of her home at the time in Merrimack.

Gutierrez, who told investigators she had gone downstairs to retrieve a towel for the boys, said she ran back upstairs when she saw water coming through the downstairs ceiling.

The 2-year-old was OK but "Christian was floating in the water," Gutierrez said through sobs at her sentencing hearing in June 2013.

The five- to 10-year term to which she was sentenced, the result of a plea agreement she reached with prosecutors, carried a provision that she could get one year taken off her minimum sentence if she successfully completed parenting, mental-health and life-skills programs in prison.

Gutierrez took, and promptly completed, those programs, Sculimbrene wrote in the motion. But she never received the one-year reduction, he added, due to a spate of "inappropriate behavior," which included several arrests on theft, drug possession, shoplifting and driving-
related charges.

Although Gutierrez over the past year "has shown marked improvement in her behavior," Sculimbrene said, she chose to hold off on filing the suspension motion because she "recognized that her behavior had been inappropriate."

That the plea agreement also credited Gutierrez for 226 days she’d already served in jail leaves her with little time left to serve before she is paroled.

Temple, who in his order noted Gutierrez’s successful completion of the prison programs, also recommended that she enroll in, and complete, Concord Hospital’s intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment program known as "Fresh Start" as part of her parole plan.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or@Telegraph_DeanS.