BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - The family of Rita Gutierrez-Garcia who was last seen more than four years ago, faced her killer in court on Friday afternoon.
The remains of Gutierrez-Garcia were recovered in April. The mother of three was 34 years old when she was last seen near downtown Longmont around 2:30 a.m. on March 18, 2018, at a bar celebrating Saint Patrick's Day.
Human remains were found east of Longmont in Weld County on April 28. On that date, according to the Boulder DA's Office, investigators told Rita's family that those remains were likely that of Rita.
There was no identification or property found at the site. Just weeks later, on May 19, preliminary DNA analysis confirmed those remains are that of Gutierrez-Garcia.
Juan Figueroa Jr., 33, was identified early in the investigation as a possible suspect in Rita's disappearance. In June of last year, Figueroa Jr. was indicted by a grand jury for the first-degree murder and kidnapping of Gutierrez-Garcia, even though her body had not been found. According to the grand jury indictment, Figueroa told a cellmate that he had strangled Guierrez-Garcia and buried her in a place that he never plans to reveal to anyone.
Figueroa pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and kidnapping in court on Friday afternoon. A judge sentenced him to 48 years in prison for murder and 12 years for kidnapping.
It was an emotional day for Gutierrez-Garcia's family who spoke at the hearing. There were tearful statements made about how their lives were impacted because Rita is no longer here.
Figueroa is currently serving a 93-years-to-life sentence in prison in Buena Vista for his conviction in a Longmont sex assault case in 2017.
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