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Suspect in Longmont mom disappearance begins trial for unrelated sex assault charges

Juan Jose Figueroa faces attempted murder and sexual assault charges for a case involving another woman in November 2017.

LONGMONT, Colo. — The man identified as the suspect in the case of missing Longmont mother Rita Gutierrez-Garcia stands trial for a separate sexual assault case that begins Tuesday, according to the Boulder County District Court.

Juan Jose Figueroa, 29, is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in November 2017. His charges include:

  • Sex Assault (F2) – 3 counts
  • Sex Assault (F3) – 3 counts
  • Criminal Attempt  - 2nd Degree Murder (F3)
  • First Degree Assault (F3) – 2 counts
  • Crime of Violence – 2 counts

Longmont police in July 2018 identified Figueroa as a suspect in the disappearance of Rita Gutierrez-Garcia, a mother of three from Longmont who hasn't been seen since the night of St. Patrick's Day 2018. 

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Figueroa has a lengthy criminal history -- including domestic violence, felony theft and animal cruelty.

In a Boulder County affidavit, a 24-year-old woman describes the night she first met Figueroa; Thanksgiving night at The Speakeasy on Main Street in Longmont.

According to the affidavit, the woman said Figueroa was at the bar with a mutual friend and she talked very little to him. At around 2 a.m., a group went to a friend’s house. According to the affidavit, the woman said it was during that time Figueroa told her they needed to leave because people at the house were doing drugs.

As the two started walking, the woman said Figueroa suggested they stop by his house to pick up cigarettes. According to the affidavit, the woman said she felt uncomfortable and texted two friends to come and pick her up.

The woman said after she sent a text message with the address to the house, Figueroa grabbed her and dragged her up the stairs to his room, the affidavit says.

According to the arrest report, the victim said Figueroa yelled, "You’re not leaving me" and that he was going to kill her.

The woman said at one point Figueroa picked her up off the ground by the throat and put her on his bed, the report says. According to the affidavit, the woman said he then started taking off her clothes. She said he continued to choke her and she passed out. According to the affidavit, the woman woke up to Figueroa slapping her. She said all of her clothing including her boots were off and she didn’t know how long she was unconscious.

The woman said he continued to choke her and she started to black out again, the affidavit says. According to the affidavit, the woman told Figueroa she needed to use the bathroom. The woman said Figueroa took her to the bathroom and told her, “I swear to God. Don’t try to run.”

The woman told Figueroa she couldn’t go to the bathroom if he watched her, the affidavit says. The woman said when he turned around she started screaming and ran down the stairs.

According to the affidavit, the woman was met by another woman and a man, later identified as the landlords of the home Figueroa was renting a room from. Initially, the female landlord wouldn’t let the woman leave, but her husband convinced her, according to the affidavit.

The male landlord then drove the woman home.

When she arrived home she told her mother what happened, according to the affidavit. They then called police and went to the hospital for a Sexual Assault Nurse Examination (SANE). According to the affidavit, the woman had severe bruising around her neck, face and eyelids. She also had injuries to her vaginal area.

Figueroa was arrested for the sexual assault on March 27 in Eagle Pass, Texas, while re-entering the U.S. from Mexico. 

In July 2018, the Longmont Police Department called Figueroa a suspect in the disappearance of Gutierrez-Garcia.

"He was a person of interest early on, and then the forensic evidence helps... call him a suspect," said Deputy Chief Jeff Satur with Longmont Police Department.

Police said Figueroa left town and went to Mexico a few days after Gutierrez-Garcia went missing.

"We've done our diligence,” Satur said. “We've actually been to the city, we've been to the place where he was living. We've talked to people in that area and we've talked to people along the route and we have information that likely suggests that [Gutierrez-Garcia] was not with him when he left Colorado."

Investigators have physical evidence that Gutierrez-Garcia was in Figueroa’s white Chevy two-door-pickup truck at one poin,t but can't say much more. They have said they no longer think Gutierrez-Garcia is alive.

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It's much more difficult to build a case without a body, but more importantly for us about finding [Gutierrez-Garcia] is getting [her] back to her family,” Satur said. "Our primary interest is getting [her] back to her family so they can have closure."

Satur said they believe Gutierrez-Garcia’s body is in a remote area near the Peak to Peak Highway, Rabbit Mountain, or anywhere from Rollins Pass to Jamestown. The department is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads them to Gutierrez-Garcia’s remains or helps them make an arrest.

This story draws on previous reporting from 9NEWS reporter/anchor Kristen Aguirre.

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