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Local News

Killer deal — woman released in murder case

Defense attorney: ‘We think justice was served in this case’

A Plainfield woman was paroled from prison after accepting an offer from prosecutors that allowed her to plead guilty to a lesser charge for her role in her former boyfriend’s murder.

Gabriela Escutia, 30, pleaded guilty last week to second-degree murder, the most serious crime the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office believed it could charge her with after an appellate court overturned a first-degree murder conviction and granted her a new trial.

The maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 20 years in prison. Half of that time must be served. Escutia was given credit for serving more than 10 years already and released Thursday.

“We really worked to obtain the best possible result that we could,” state’s attorney’s office spokeswoman Carole Cheney said.

Cheney said second-degree murder was the “most serious offense available based on the evidence remaining” in light of an appellate court decision. The appellate court ruled that her confession to killing her ex-boyfriend, Javier Barrios, was inadmissible, Cheney said.

“Given the constraints on the evidence that we originally had used, in light of the appellate court’s ruling, this really was the best possible result that could’ve been achieved,” she said.

Escutia’s attorney, Neil Patel, said he thought it would’ve been “almost impossible” for prosecutors to charge her with first-degree murder since her confession was suppressed. He said he thought the outcome of the case was “an excellent result.”

“We think justice was served in this case,” Patel said.

In 2014, Escutia was sentenced to
52 years in prison after a jury found her guilty of shooting and killing Barrios, 18, in 2007. Her accomplice, Ricardo Gutierrez, also was convicted of murder and sentenced to 68 years in prison.

Escutia was dating Barrios at the time and set up a meeting with him in a field off Route 59 after Gutierrez, her other boyfriend, was released from juvenile prison.

At the meeting, Escutia walked up to Barrios’ car and shot him in the torso. She was wearing a glove on one hand to avoid leaving fingerprints on the gun, which she hid in a pair of sweatpants.

She opened the passenger door of Barrios’ car and shot him once in the heart before the gun jammed. Barrios climbed out the window and ran away, but Gutierrez took the gun, cleared it and shot Barrios twice in the head.

After the killing, Escutia and Gutierrez went to see the movie “Saw IV.”

Escutia had claimed that Barrios became violent with her when she tried to break things off. She told a Will County judge at her sentencing hearing that it wasn’t her intention for Barrios to die.

“I was scared. It’s not something I’ll ever forget. I live in my own hell,” Escutia said.

Prosecutors argued that Escutia was a “manipulative, coldblooded killer” who lured Barrios to his death.

Although Escutia was found guilty of first-degree murder, an appellate court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial last year because the police didn’t read Escutia her the Miranda Rights before she confessed to shooting Barrios.

The police picked up Escutia and Gutierrez at his Chicago home. During the ride back to Plainfield, Escutia confessed to shooting Barrios before officers read her the Miranda Rights.

A police investigator “testified that during the approximately 60-minute drive, Escutia began talking ‘[a]lmost immediately’ without any prompting from the detectives,” the appellate court said in its opinion.

Her rights were read at the police department, and she confessed again, giving a statement on video and in writing, but the appellate court ruled “a reasonable person in Escutia’s position would not have understood that she had a choice in whether to continue talking to the police.”

Patel said the officers who talked with Escutia without reading her rights overstepped their bounds.

“They should’ve known better,” he said.

Barrios’ younger sister, Viridiana Barrios, described him as a kind and caring person.

“The wound in our hearts will never be mended,” she said. “Our family opened the door to Gabriela and her daughter. We never imagined she would be capable of murder.”

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