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Friday, April 26, 2013

Gutierrez set to plead, receive sentence this summer in 2011 baby’s drowning death

NASHUA – A Merrimack woman accused of letting her 8-month-old baby drown in a bathtub appears to have struck a deal with county prosecutors, but attorneys have agreed not to discuss the deal publicly.

Melissa Gutierrez is charged with negligent homicide, reckless conduct and endangering the welfare of a child in the Aug. 25, 2011, drowning death of her son, Christian Ntapalis. ...

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NASHUA – A Merrimack woman accused of letting her 8-month-old baby drown in a bathtub appears to have struck a deal with county prosecutors, but attorneys have agreed not to discuss the deal publicly.

Melissa Gutierrez is charged with negligent homicide, reckless conduct and endangering the welfare of a child in the Aug. 25, 2011, drowning death of her son, Christian Ntapalis.

Documents filed at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua show that a plea and sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 17, indicating a deal has been reached. Two other documents, filed on March 21 and March 29, have been sealed.

Gutierrez’s public defender, Anthony Sculimbrene, declined to discuss the details of the deal, citing a voluntary “gag order” defense and Hillsborough County Attorneys have agreed to abide by.

The assistant county attorneys prosecuting the case, Kent Smith and David Tencza, weren’t available for comment Thursday.

Recently, the attorneys have sparred over comments Gutierrez made to police immediately after her son’s death and in the days following.

Sculimbrene has argued that police took advantage of Gutierrez’s extreme emotional distress and that the comments should be barred from any trial. At a hearing in March, Sculimbrene argued Gutierrez suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder even before finding her son floating face down in a bathtub.

Dr. Albert Drukteinis, a forensic psychiatrist, testified Gutierrez suffered from an acute stress disorder. Because of that, Sculimbrene said, she had a confused memory and didn’t understand the consequences of statements she made to police.

Testimony during the March hearing also revealed a number of other traumas earlier in Gutierrez’s life, including the death of her father in a traffic accident and a partner who died in her arms after suffering a heart attack.

At one point in her life, she had been gang raped. She was addicted to crack cocaine and had prostituted herself, Drukteinis testified.Gutierrez twice in her life attempted suicide, once since her son Christian drowned, Drukteinis testified.Smith argued that Gutierrez spoke voluntarily with police and was able to answer their questions rationally.

Gutierrez was out on bail following her arrest but was then placed on house arrest and finally had her bail revoked after an October hearing when a judge found probable cause that she had violated conditions of house arrest twice, once for shoplifting from a Manchester pharmacy.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).