GILROY, Calif. – The missing mother of an Iraq war veteran who police say killed his family in a murder-suicide was found dead on Thursday off a rural Northern California road.
Gilroy police and volunteers had been looking for 52-year-old Martha Gutierrez since last week, after the bodies of her children, 27-year-old Abel and 11-year-old Lucero, were found in their apartment.
Investigators believe Abel Gutierrez, a National Guardsman, fatally shot his mother and sister before turning the gun on himself.
Family members told the San Jose Mercury News that authorities summoned them to the location of the body near the border of Santa Clara and San Benito counties.
Kristell Gutierrez said authorities confirmed the body belonged to her aunt.
"We were hoping she was alive, but we kind of knew that she wasn't going to be," she told the newspaper. "We're just happy she's been found."
Family members have said they suspected Abel Gutierrez suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that they had been upset by his talk of suicide and brandishing of guns.
Two weeks before the killings, on Feb. 29, a Gilroy police officer responded to a service call at the apartment. Yet Abel Gutierrez' family told the officer they did not feel threatened, so Gutierrez was not placed on a psychological hold, police said.
Calls to Gilroy police and sheriff's offices in Santa Clara and San Benito Counties by The Associated Press were not returned.
Gutierrez moved to Washington's Army National Guard from the U.S. Army in 2008, the Army said. He served in Iraq in 2009 and 2010, and had been receiving treatment at a VA facility in Puget Sound, Wash.
At the time of his death Gutierrez was transferring to California's Army National Guard.