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Melissa Gutierrez at her arraignment Tuesday, September 6, 2011.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Manchester woman convicted in son’s drowning; similar case in Merrimack also being prosecuted

MANCHESTER – A jury convicted a Manchester woman on manslaughter and negligent homicide charges after her year-old son drowned more than a year ago.

Jessica Botelho, 24, was convicted of manslaughter, negligent homicide and reckless conduct Friday in the July 13, 2010, drowning. The jury saw evidence that Botelho spent an extended amount of time on a computer in another room of the house while two of her sons were in the bathtub, according to Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan.

The case is one of two that the Hillsborough County attorney’s office is trying that include homicide charges against young mothers.

The case has several similarities to that of Melissa Gutierrez, 25, a former Merrimack woman who is also being prosecuted by Hogan’s office.

Police in Merrimack charged Gutierrez with negligent homicide, manslaughter, two counts of reckless conduct and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child after her 8-month-old son drowned in the bathtub at 46 Wilson Hill Road, according to court records.

On the surface, the charges against Gutierrez seem similar. But Gutierrez hasn’t been tried on the accusations against her and many of the details of the case still are clouded.

Gutierrez was indicted in November for allegedly leaving her 8-month-old son, Christian Ntapalis, and a 2-year-old alone in the bathtub on Aug. 25, according to court documents.

At a preliminary hearing in Merrimack, Gutierrez’s attorney, Anthony Sculimbrene, said Christian’s death was a “freak accident.”

The indictments against Gutierrez do not specify where prosecutors allege she was when Christian died, only that she left him unattended “long enough for (him) to drown.” Another indictment alleges Christian was unsupervised for an “unreasonable amount of time,” according to court records.

Assistant County Attorney Jennifer Sandoval prosecuted Botelho and told the jury the young mother left her kids unsupervised in the bathtub while she was on a computer on the porch, Hogan said.

Computer records showed Botelho used the computer regularly for a 40-minute period while her sons were in the bathtub. The older boy went to the porch to tell Botelho that her younger son had drowned, Hogan said.

Gutierrez, who turned herself in to police about a week after the drowning, faces up to 30 years in prison for each of the manslaughter and negligent homicide charges, according to court records.

Botelho will be sentenced April 17 at Hillsborough County Superior Court North in Manchester.

She faces 15-30 years in State Prison for the manslaughter charge, according to Hogan.

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