ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - A police lieutenant present at the death of his lover's estranged husband took immediate control of the investigation and encouraged a ruling of suicide despite conflicting statements from his girlfriend, the dead man's brother claims in court.
Michael Gutierrez sued Grant County and its Sheriff's Department on behalf of his late brother, Max Joe Gutierrez. Defendants Lt. Sam Rodriguez and Sgt. Willy Kerin were in Max Joe Gutierrez's house when he died of a shotgun blast to the head after 9 p.m. on June 19, 2010, according to the complaint. Also there was the late Gutierrez's estranged wife, defendant Jamie Gutierrez nee Fetty.
Lt. Rodriguez and Jamie Fetty had been "conducting an extramarital affair between themselves" in the months before the shooting, and Max Joe suspected it, the complaint states.
The late man's brother claims that Fetty, who was "the only eyewitness to the event, provided several, conflicting statements to law enforcement."
He adds: "Defendant Lt. Sam Rodriguez had primary initial control of the scene and personally participated in the investigation in the immediate hours after the incident."
Fetty first described the death as an accidental shooting after a struggle, but her story changed over several retellings until it evolved into a tale of suicide, according to the complaint.
"Defendant law enforcement officers failed and/or refused to share the fact that defendant Fetty was, at the time of her husband's death, engaged in a love affair with the lead investigator on the scene, Lt. Sam Rodriguez," the lawsuit states.
It continues: "Defendant Lt. Rodriguez shielded defendant Fetty from any scrutiny or unbiased and unconflicted, or otherwise critical and adverse questioning in the hours and days after the incident."
As other police officers arrived, Rodriguez informed the medical investigator and members of the Santa Clara Police Department that the death was a suicide, and allowed Fetty to change her clothes and clean up without taking photographs of the blood pattern on her clothes or person, the complaint states. It claims that after the physical scene investigation was cleared, police officers "retrieved household cleaning products and cleaned up the bloodstains and other physical evidence."
Despite the contradictory statements by Fetty and despite evidence that in the days leading up to her husband's death Fetty had used her cell phone to search for such topics as "how to cover up a suicde [sic]" and "maximum sent for second degree murder in NM," the New Mexico 6th Judicial District Attorney's office declined to investigate further, according to the complaint.
In short, Michael Gutierrez says in the complaint: "Defendants Fetty and Rodriguez denied the plaintiffs their rights to be free from excessive lethal force when they planned to commit, and did commit, a homicide of Max Joe Gutierrez."
Michael Gutierrez seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, conspiracy to commit homicide, tampering with and spoliation of evidence, and negligent hiring. He is represented by Derek V. Garcia.
Four other police officers and the City of Bayard also are named as defendants.