GILROY, Calif. (AP) - The missing mother of an Iraq war veteran who is believed to have killed his family in a murder-suicide was found dead on Thursday off a rural Northern California road, police said.
Gilroy police and volunteers had been looking for 52-year-old Martha Gutierrez since last week, after the bodies of her children, 27-year-old Abel and 11-year-old Lucero, were found in their apartment.
Investigators believe Abel Gutierrez, a National Guardsman who was formerly stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as a member of the U.S. Army, fatally shot his mother and sister
before turning the gun on himself.
Gilroy police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao told The Associated Press that authorities have positively identified the woman, and the family had been notified.
Investigators on Wednesday asked citizens in a rural part of Santa Clara and San Benito counties to keep an eye out for the body, after evidence led them to the area.
On Thursday the volunteers found the body under bushes off the highway. Gutierrez had one apparent gunshot wound, Gallacinao said.
"Our first priority was locating Martha Gutierrez, now we will try to figure out when and how (her death) happened," he said.
Family members told the San Jose Mercury News
that authorities summoned them to the location of the body near the border of the two counties.
Kristell Gutierrez said authorities confirmed the body belonged to her aunt.
"We were hoping she was alive, but we kind of knew that she wasn't going to be," she told the newspaper. "We're just happy she's been found."
Family members have said they suspected Abel Gutierrez suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that they had been upset by his talk of suicide and brandishing of guns.
Two weeks before the killings, on Feb. 29, a Gilroy police officer responded to a service call at the apartment. Yet Abel Gutierrez' family told the officer they did not feel threatened, so Gutierrez was not placed on a psychological hold, police said.
Gutierrez moved to Washington's Army National Guard from the U.S. Army in 2008, the Army said. He served in Iraq in 2009 and 2010, and had been receiving treatment at a VA facility in Puget Sound.
At the time of his death Gutierrez was transferring to California's Army National Guard.