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Lawyers gagged on Merrimack mother's plea deal in baby's death

Union Leader Correspondent

April 29. 2013 11:14PM

Melissa Gutierrez walks into Merrimack District Court in September 2011 to face charges of negligent homicide involving her 8-month-old son, who drowned in a bathtub. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON PHOTO)

NASHUA - Attorneys on both sides of the negligent homicide case against Melissa Gutierrez - accused in the 2011 drowning death of her baby - have agreed to a gag order and won't discuss the Merrimack mom's plea deal.

"I anticipate we will keep it confidential until the plea and sentencing hearing," Hillsborough County Attorney Kent Smith said of the 27-year-old's June 17 scheduled appearance in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

The attorneys in the case decided to work out a negotiated plea and sentence "without the glare" of the media or the public, Smith said Monday.

Gutierrez, 27, is facing charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter, two counts of reckless conduct and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child for the Aug. 25, 2011, drowning at 46 Wilson Hill Road, Merrimack.

Police allege that she left her two children, an 8-month-old baby and a 2-year-old boy, unattended in the bathtub for an extended period of time with the water running. The youngest boy, Christian Ntapalis, drowned.

Last month, a medical expert testified that Melissa Gutierrez has led a life surrounded with death and drug addiction.

Prior to her son's drowning, Gutierrez lost her father in a fatal car accident, and also held her former partner while he died in her arms of a heart attack, according to Dr. Albert Drukteinis, who testified earlier that the young mother had an addiction to crack cocaine, prostituted herself and was the victim of a gang rape.

Court records indicate that the mother may have fallen asleep on the couch while water overflowed the bathtub where her two children played during the summer of 2011, eventually flooding the bathroom and causing water to leak through to the basement ceiling.

Defense counsel has been attempting to suppress statements that Gutierrez made to police following the death of her son. An attorney for Gutierrez, Anthony Sculimbrene, alleges the statements were obtained while Gutierrez was hysterical over the baby's death.

Drukteinis maintains that Gutierrez was suffering from mental illness that affected her ability to make rational decisions when speaking with authorities on three different occasions on the day of the boy's death and the day after.

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