Jury finds man guilty of first-degree murder

September 21, 2023

Carlos Sanchez

Jury finds man guilty of first-degree murder

Carlos Sanchez will receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

HART — A 33-year-old Muskegon man was found guilty by a jury in Oceana County’s 51st Circuit Court Thursday, Sept. 21, of first-degree murder and felony firearm for shooting and killing a 28-year-old Muskegon man with a handgun June 12, 2022.

Carlos Andres Sanchez will receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole, said Oceana County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Bizon. 

The trial for Sanchez, who murdered Miguel Angel Gutierrez, began Monday, Sept. 18, and the jury deliberated for about three hours before rendering a verdict. Sanchez is lodged in the Oceana County Jail on a $500,000 cash bond. 

“I am very grateful that justice was served for Miguel Gutierrez and his family,” said Bizon.

The murder occurred around noon in the backyard of a Rothbury area residence at 8537 S. Robinhood Dr. in Grant Township — the home of Crystal Ramona Gonzalez.

After murdering Gutierrez, Sanchez immediately fled the scene southbound on US 31 in his white pickup truck, but was quickly captured by law enforcement in Muskegon County.

Several witnesses were called to the stand to testify Tuesday, including Gonzalez and many first responders on scene that day. Testimony continued Wednesday, with jury beginning deliberations in the afternoon. After returning to the courthouse Thursday morning for further deliberation, the jury came back with a verdict. 

Witness testimony during a preliminary examination in 79th District Court revealed that the victim suffered seven gunshot wounds. Dr. Jared Brooks, a forensic and anatomic pathologist, testified that the autopsy determined that the cause of death was “multiple gunshot wounds” and the manner of death was “homicide.” 

Deputy Fillips, who was first on scene, said, “There were multiple bullet holes in the body.” Fillips also said he observed “a line of shell casings — in a straight line across the yard.”

Witnesses were questioned by Prosecutor Bizon and then cross-examined by Sanchez’s attorney, Julie Springstead-Waltz.

“He just got out of his truck; walked towards us; and started shooting,” said Crystal Gonzalez. She testified that Sanchez is the father of her children. 

The motive for the murder appeared to be a love interest situation. “Carlos was messing with (Gutierrez’s) baby mama, (and) we were just going to talk to each other and get to know each other,” she said of Gutierrez. Gonzalez testified that Gutierrez had spent the previous three nights at her home prior to the murder.

“Standard criminal jury instruction 4.9 says the jury can consider a motive, but I don’t have to prove a motive,” explained Bizon. “I hammered that all day long during the trial. I just have to prove that he did it — prove that he did, in fact, fire the shots that killed Miguel Gutierrez.

“He will get life in prison without the possibility of parole, and he has to serve two years consecutive to and prior to any other terms for the felony firearm.”

Sanchez had no known prior criminal record, said Bizon. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 13. 

The prosecutor provided the following written statement to OCP regarding the trial:

Our office was involved in the prosecution of an open murder trial from Sept. 18-21, 2023. The result of the trial is the defendant, Carlos Sanchez was found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and weapons – felony firearm (use or possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony).

I would be remiss if I did not thank the jury. The 12 members and two alternates were told this trial could last up to two weeks. We were able to handle the case efficiently — jury selection took the entire day on Sept. 18. Witness testimony was taken on Sept. 19 and 20. Between Sept. 20 and 21, the jury deliberated approximately three hours.The sacrifices of those who serve on jury duty ensure the rights of all, and make sure that the People and defendants receive a fair trial.

I want to thank Det. Mark Hiddema and lead Deputy Michael Fillips for their hard work and effort in resolving this case. Assisting them were deputies Jeremy Swihart, Deputy Dale Thompson, MSP Sgt. Kelsey Case, MSP Troopers Erin McGary, Matthew Demny Jennifer Alway, Kyle Green, and Deputy David Paseka, and other deputies from the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office. I believe the Michigan State Police Crime Lab was instrumental in proving the facts of this case, thank you to Jessica Ramirez, David Hayhusrt and Jason Sinke, and also Dr. Jared Brooks, the pathologist in this case.

I further want to express my gratitude to Tonya Selig, the court administrator for all of her hard work. The Bailiff, Deputy David Gregwer, and his partner Deputy Brenden Nienhuis and corrections officer Kyle Joseph deserve credit for managing the difficult logistics over multiple days. This process would not have been possible without these members of our team.

I am very grateful that justice was served for Miguel Gutierrez and his family. This was a team effort I could not have not achieved this without the tireless work of my staff led by Heather Rowe, my office manager. Thank you all.

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