Strangulation victim was lucky to have survived

A woman who was strangled and left for dead by her ex-boyfriend was lucky to have survived, a Jackson County prosecutor said following a recent guilty plea by her attacker.

"This was the single worst incident of strangulation that I'd ever seen," said John Norton, deputy district attorney for Jackson County.

The victim, who asked not to be identified, suffered broken blood vessels and lay in a coma on a respirator for days after the Aug. 26 attack, Norton said.

"She was very lucky that a bystander found her," he said.

Ricardo Gutierrez, 30, pleaded guilty to second-degree felony assault after admitting he strangled his 25-year-old former girlfriend that Sunday morning, then left her lying unconscious in the shrubs near Rogue Valley Medical Center, Norton said.

Gutierrez originally was charged with attempted murder and second degree assault. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge on Oct. 16 and was sentenced to 70 months in prison for the Measure 11 crime.

If the case had gone to trial and had Gutierrez been found guilty of attempted murder, the maximum penalty would have added another 20 months to his sentence, said Norton.

"We were absolutely prepared to go to trial," said Norton. "But he pleaded guilty (to the second-degree assault charge) and we did not have to subject the victim to the trial process."

The young woman was in a car with Gutierrez near the hospital when he attacked and then abandoned her. The two had a previous relationship and were estranged at the time of the attack, Norton said.

The victim's strong support system helped prosecutors bring the case to "a good ending," Norton said. Family support makes it easier for a victim to cooperate with the justice system and prosecute abusers when she is not reliant upon her attacker for financial or emotional support, he said.

"She has a terrific supportive family," said Norton.

Family members also have helped the victim cope with the physical and emotional aftermath of the attack, Norton said.

"She still has an occasional headache," said Norton. "She's recovered well physically, as most victims do. But it takes time, emotionally, to deal with it."

Shortly after the attack, Gutierrez was arrested and remained in custody on $2 million bail. He made his plea from the Jackson County Jail via video feed. He will spend three years under court supervision upon his release, said Norton. "At the sentencing, (Gutierrez) voiced regret and apologized to the victim," said Norton.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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