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Prosecutors filed charges Tuesday against a homeless man accused of killing and dismembering his wife in a vacant Pasadena restaurant, packing her remains in a suitcase, then taking the train to Cypress Park in Los Angeles, where he allegedly dumped the suitcase and set it on fire.
Speaking at at their downtown L.A. headquarters Tuesday, Los Angeles Police Department officials described the slaying — which investigators believe occurred late Jan. 31 — as “disturbing” and “sheer brutality.”
The badly charred remains were found early Thursday morning in a Home Depot parking lot at 2055 N. Figueroa St.
Valentino Gutierrez, 56, was charged with murder and arson of property, according to Greg Risling, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. He also alleged that Gutierrez used an accelerant.
Gutierrez was scheduled for an arraignment Tuesday at Pasadena Superior Court, but it was continued to Feb. 15. The court set bail for Gutierrez at $2.17 million.
While the coroner’s office has not been able to identify the victim yet because of extensive burns to the body, police have concluded she is the suspect’s wife, LAPD Capt. William Hayes said, although he didn’t explain how they made that determination. Investigators do not have a motive for the killing yet.
“It’s pretty significant, to dismember an individual like that is pretty grotesque,” Hayes said. “That takes a lot of effort and determination by an individual, which is pretty cold.”
Hayes said investigators believed the woman to be 31-year-old Tiana Alfred. He said police are still looking for her next of kin.
Earlier Tuesday at a police commission meeting in downtown L.A., Chief Charlie Beck said police learned Gutierrez’s significant other or spouse was missing.
Police released the victim’s name to let the community know the killing wasn’t random, Hayes said.
Police believe the couple was homeless and had been living at the Union Station Adult Center at 412 S. Raymond Ave. in Pasadena for several months.
The shelter is less than a half-mile away from the now shuttered Dona Rosa Bakery and Taqueria at 577 S. Arroyo Parkway, where investigators said the victim was killed.
Closed for about 1 1/2 years, the abandoned building was known to be frequented by homeless people, according Hayes and to the owner of a nearby business.
Deputy Chief Justin Eisenberg of the LAPD Detective Bureau said police believe Gutierrez killed the victim there, then stuffed her remains in a large suitcase.
According to surveillance footage, a man who police said looked like Gutierrez was later spotted riding the Metro Gold Line toward Los Angeles with a bicycle and the suitcase in tow.
Eisenberg said the man did not appear suspicious, and no one on the train interacted with him. The suitcase appeared to be heavy, according to Metro footage.
The man then exited the train at the Lincoln/Cypress station and rode his bike to the Home Depot parking lot, where he dumped the suitcase and set it on fire, Eisenberg said. He then rode away from the area.
Firefighters responded to the Home Depot parking lot in response to a report of a rubbish fire at around 1:30 a.m. Thursday. After they extinguished the fire, they opened the suitcase and found dismembered body parts, officials said. LAPD detectives were called.
The Metro surveillance footage led the investigators to Pasadena, where they used a bloodhound to track the suspect back to the area of Arroyo Parkway and California Street. They interviewed several local homeless people there, who identified the suspect.
“Their statements also tie (Gutierrez) to the murder,” Beck said.
The suspect was arrested Friday morning. Online court records show Gutierrez has a criminal record in L.A. County dating as far back as 1989.
He’s been convicted of battery, burglary, lewd conduct in public, petty theft with a prior conviction, manufacturing, selling or possessing a dangerous weapon and petty theft. He was charged with robbery in 1995, but online court records did not have details about the case.
A Pasadena police press release said the department is working collaboratively with the LAPD. It noted that police have responded to the location three times in 2017 for homeless related concerns.
“They put some fencing up around the parking lot about six months ago because homeless people were living over there, cooking and having a party,” said Richard Kang, who owns the Granny’s Pantry health food store across the street from the restaurant.
Kang said he hadn’t heard about the killing. But he did note some recent commotion.
“I saw a news truck out there, and I was wondering what happened,” Kang said early Tuesday.
The exterior windows of the shuttered restaurant still promote the tacos, cerveza, sweet bread and aguas frescas that were once served there and a rear upstairs window still advertises live mariachi music.
Gutierrez remains in custody in county jail.
This article first appeared on www.pasadenastarnews.com
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