- Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM
Melissa Gutierrez at her bail hearing Monday, April 30, 2012, in Hillsborough County Superior Court. Gutierrez will be in court Monday on a hearing to suppress statements she made to police.
- Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM
Melissa Gutierrez reacts with a clenched fist after hearing the judges finding on her bail hearing Monday, April 30, 2012, in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
April 30, 2012, in Hillsborough Country Superior Court.
- Staff file photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM Melissa Gutierrez talks to her lawyers during her bail hearing on April 30, 2012, in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Woman charged in baby’s death on house arrest after theft, drug charges
NASHUA – A judge put Melissa Gutierrez under house arrest, instead of jail, after finding probable cause that she stole jeans from a store in Salem.
Gutierrez, 26, of Merrimack, is awaiting a September trial on negligent homicide and child endangerment in the drowning death of her 8-month-old son Christian Ntapalis on Aug. 25.
On April 10, she was charged with theft and drug possession counts after four pairs of jeans were shoplifted from the Lord & Taylor store at the Mall at Rockingham Park.
Officers also found Gutierrez in possession of prescription drugs she did not have a prescription for, according to police.
Hillsborough County attorney’s office prosecutor Kent Smith asked Judge Diane Nicolosi to revoke Gutierrez’s bail on the negligent homicide charges because of the new charges.
But Nicolosi granted Gutierrez another chance by putting her under house arrest. She’s allowed to leave her Wilson Hill Road home only to meet with her attorneys, for mental health counseling appointments and to visit her 3-year-old son under the supervision of the Division for Children, Youth & Families, Nicolosi said.
“I’m going to give you a chance,” Nicolosi said. “You’ve got to stay in treatment. You’ve got to maintain yourself in a way to help your lawyers in your defense.”
Gutierrez, who cried through much of the hearing, which lasted more than an hour, thanked Nicolosi, sobbing and leaning over.
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you so much,” she said.
Gutierrez appeared at the hearing wearing an orange jail jumpsuit with her dark hair pulled back in a small bun. Her ankles were shackled.
Smith said Gutierrez’s most recent arrest showed a “callous disregard” for the court’s orders for charges that are the most serious the county attorney’s office prosecutes.
After a failed attempt to have the motion to revoke bail dismissed, defense attorney Anthony Sculimbrene asked to have Gutierrez freed on bail but with additional conditions, including GPS monitoring, house arrest and intensive pretrial supervision.
Sculimbrene asked the judge to recognize that Gutierrez has been working hard to help her lawyers and to reunite with her older son.
“She’s done a lot of work trying to reunify with her son,” he said. “She takes these charges incredibly serious. She’s doing a lot of work that quite frankly a lot of people don’t do in their criminal cases.”
Gutierrez also would be far better off and able to participate in her own defense if she were living at home and seeing her own doctor, Sculimbrene said.
He said he realizes it’s unusual to argue for bail given the misdemeanor charges following negligent homicide charges, but said, “This is an unusual case. The stakes in this case are pretty substantial.”
The hearing included testimony from Erin Arsenault, a loss prevention officer at Lord & Taylor.
Asenault said she watched Gutierrez take several pairs of jeans into a dressing room and then walk out of the store. Another employee stopped her in the mall, and Arsenault said she found security tags in the dressing room and the jeans in a shopping bag carried by Gutierrez, along with wire cutters, a purse and a wallet.
The jeans were worth a little more than $300, Arsenault said.
In early September, Gutierrez was arraigned for negligent homicide roughly two weeks after her son was found dead in the bathtub where he was allegedly left unattended. She also pleaded innocent to a misdemeanor charge of failing to appear in court in connection with an unrelated matter, while a judge dismissed theft charges Gutierrez faced for allegedly forging and cashing more than $3,700 in stolen checks.
Merrimack Police Capt. Mike Dudash called the baby’s death a serious criminal offense, but public defender Sculimbrene characterized it as a tragic accident.
Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or email@example.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).