Suspects in court for burglary of dead family's home

Michael Vincent Gutierrez and Amber Marie True are charged with breaking into the home of John and Susan Maloney of Sonoma after hearing reports of their deaths.
December 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A Bay Area man and his girlfriend accused of a callous crime are defending themselves. Michael Gutierrez and Amber True faced a judge Thursday for the first time since being arrested for burglarizing the home of a family killed in a car crash over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Gutierrez claims he did not know the home he burglarized was that of a Sonoma family killed just days earlier in a tragic car accident.

In a jailhouse interview, Gutierrez told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, "I had no idea what had happened to the family. I am not a monster."

Gutierrez and True were arraigned Thursday afternoon in a Santa Rosa courtroom, accused of burglarizing the home of John and Susan Maloney and their two young children, all killed last Saturday.

Gutierrez told the Press Democrat he had no idea the Maloneys were dead. He said, "I don't want people to think I'm a cold-hearted man. If my little girls had to go through that I would be devastated."

The Sonoma County District Attorney says whether Gutierrez and True targeted the home because they knew the Maloneys had been killed could become an issue later.

"The fact of the matter is this case is charged with the charges of residential burglary and auto theft and it certainly heightens the sensitivity of the wrongdoing here and those will be issues taken up at a later time, ultimately at a sentencing hearing after this case goes to trial," Stephan Passalacqua said.

"I think a judge is going to have the same reaction that we do; that this is ghoulish and this was offensive and so here a judge has a choice of a low-term sentence or an aggravated sentence," ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson said.

In the meantime, the investigation into the accident that killed the Maloneys continues. The Mini Cooper that hit the family was driven by 19-year-old Steven Culbertson, who was also killed in the accident.

A witness told investigators he saw the teenager drinking at a Petaluma bar in the hours before the crash.

"There are potential criminal charges for serving an underage minor; we'll look at that at the appropriate time," Passalacqua said.

Toxicology report results for Culbertson could take several more weeks

Gutierrez and True both pleaded not guilty to four felonies related to the burglary. Bail was set at $500,000 each and their next court appearance was scheduled for next week. Each could face eight to 11 years in prison if convicted.

A private memorial service is being held Friday afternoon for the family


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