San Mateo County man who admitted burglarizing the home of a Sonoma family that had just perished in a vehicle crash in November was sentenced to an eight-year prison term in Sonoma County Superior Court this morning. Michael Gutierrez, 27, pleaded no contest in July to first-degree residential burglary, vehicle theft and vandalism. He was sentenced to six years in prison for the burglary and to two one-year terms for having served two prior prison sentences. Gutierrez and co-defendant Amber True were convicted of breaking into the home of John and Susan Maloney, both 42, on Nov. 30, destroying furniture, walls and doors and stealing John Maloney’s 2006 Nissan 350Z. The Maloneys and their two children, ages 5 and 8, were killed on Nov. 28 in a crash on state Highway 37 and Lakeville Road. The driver of the 2009 Mini Cooper that struck the Maloney family’s 2004 Nissan Quest SUV, Steven Culbertson, 19, of Lakeport, died at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on Nov. 30.True, 30, also of San Mateo County, pleaded guilty to the same charges and faces a six-year prison term when she is sentenced Oct. 27. Gutierrez denied he and True knew the house was unoccupied because the family had just perished in the crash.His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Karen Silver, said there was a memorial that included burning candles on the front steps of the Maloney home on Fryer Creek Drive in Sonoma, but Gutierrez and True didn’t see it
because they entered the house through a dog door on the side of the house. Deputy District Attorney Michael Li said Gutierrez was informed by a San Mateo resident familiar with real estate listings that the Maloney house was unoccupied.
After Gutierrez was sentenced this morning, Li said the Maloney family’s relatives said there were 20 flower bouquets inside the home. Li said Gutierrez probably would have noticed the memorial on the front steps as he walked around the house looking for a place to enter it. After a preliminary hearing, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Arthur Wick ruled the Maloney’s home was occupied and he upheld the first-degree burglary charge. In sentencing Gutierrez today, Wick said that although Gutierrez took responsibility for the Sonoma burglary and pleaded no contest before trial, he planned the burglary in a professional manner when he learned the house was unoccupied. Wick said Gutierrez traveled from San Mateo County to Sonoma, “cased” the house, wore gloves, caused $100,000 damage while removing items from the home and drove away with the stolen property in the Maloney family’s car. Gutierrez also is being prosecuted in Santa Clara County for burglarizing a home that was for sale because the owners were moving out of the country, Li said. He is being prosecuted in San Mateo County as well for burglary, possession of a .32-caliber revolver and possession of a laptop computer that
was stolen from a vehicle, Li said. Those crimes occurred on Oct. 7, 2009, Li said. If Gutierrez is convicted of the San Mateo County crimes, he could receive an additional two years in prison for the Sonoma burglary when he is sentenced because the Sonoma burglary occurred while Gutierrez was out on bail in the San Mateo County case, Li said. True also is being prosecuted with Gutierrez for the Santa Clara County residential burglary, her attorney Steve Weiss said. She is out on bail and is scheduled to appear in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Oct. 20.
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