Mystery of remains solved after victim's brave final word to killer emerges

THE decomposed remains found dumped in a rural area has been revealed as a woman who vanished more than four years ago.

Rita Gutierrez-Garcia was last seen by friends in an alley behind a bar as she celebrated St Patricks Day in the early hours of March 18, 2018.


But on Thursday, Boulder County District Attorney's Office issued a statement confirming her body had been found in Weld County, Colorado.

Preliminary results from DNA confirmed the remains belonged to the 34-year-old mother.

"This is no longer a missing person investigation," Gutierrez-Garcia's sister said in a press release.

Juan Figueroa Jr, 33, is now expected to plead guilty to the first-degree murder and kidnapping of the woman after he was identified as a potential suspect early in the case, the release read.

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Gutierrez-Garcia and Figueroa had "briefly interacted" with each other at a bar shortly before she went missing, according to court documents.

It came as chilling details emerged of the victim’s desperate final phone call to the authorities after police said they received a 911 hang up call on the night she went missing.

Two attempts to return Gutierrez-Garcia's call were unsuccessful, as her phone reportedly dropped off the network shortly after.

During that time, phone tower data indicated the location of her phone matched the location in which the suspects car traveled at the time of her disappearance between 2:30 a.m. and 3:10 a.m., the documents read.

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The same day, Figueroa reportedly fled the state of Colorado to Mexico.

However, while attempting to cross back into the U.S. a week later, he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder as well as a separate charge of sexual assault on another woman. 

According to court records, Figueroa allegedly later confessed to his cell mate about Gutierrez-Garcia's death and disappearance.

He claimed he punched her, knocked her unconscious and strangled her, after she called him a “weirdo.”

The man also allegedly confessed to burning his clothes and dumping the victim's body "in an area not accessible to the public” in a bid to evade detection.

In June 2021, a jury indicted Figueroa for the murder and kidnap of Gutierrez-Garcia in a "no-body homicide."

Figueroa's guilty plea and sentencing is now scheduled for June 3 after her remains were discovered, the DA say.

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They add that there will be no trial.

Gutierrez-Garcia, who at the time of her death was studying for a paralegal degree, left behind three sons.



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