ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque man accused of beating his wife to death took a plea deal. Under the agreement, Jerome Guiterrez won’t be seeing any time behind bars, and her family can’t believe it.

“We are so disgusted in our justice system,” said Tina Martinez. 

Kristy Rivera, 42, died in May of 2021. Her husband was initially charged with the murder. On May 16, Guiterrez struck a deal with the state, agreeing to plead guilty to aggravated battery on a household member with great bodily harm. Martinez, a sister of Rivera said, “It’s so disappointing that the court cannot see that, and that there’s so many technicalities that are put in place that don’t give us justice.”

He was sentenced to three years of supervised probation. According to the DA’s office, they brought in experts to look at the case and the cause of death but just didn’t have the evidence to prove she was murdered. Judge Cindy Leos agreed. “There was an issue with the opinions that the ER Dr. Tran had indicated in his findings and because the case took on this life of its own leading down a path that was not supported by the evidence,” explained the judge, 

In court, Rivera’s family said her marriage was filled with jealousy. Court documents show deputies responded to their South Valley home in May of 2021 for a domestic violence call. They questioned the couple, separated them for the evening, and left. Days later, Rivera was brain-dead. 

Gutierrez claimed she fell and hit her head in the bathroom. His attorney also pointed out Rivera was drunk that night. Amy Williams said, “The physical evidence on the scene showed and proved she suffered from a tremendous fall that resulted in a brain injury that resulted in her death.”

At his plea hearing, Gutierrez gave his condolences to Kristy Rivera’s family but insisted he was innocent.

“I did not kill Kristy. I know in my heart, and Burgundy knows in her heart, that I did not do this terrible crime,” he said. 

The family is irate over the plea deal and wanted the case to go to trial. “If the DA could prove that battery, then how in the world are you not able to prove that that was what killed her because that’s exactly what happened? Our hearts are broken,” Francesca Rodriguez shared.   

Another one of Rivera’s sisters said she worries about Rivera’s now 7-year-old daughter, who still lives with Gutierrez. Mia Garcia said, “She was supposed to be protected by this one man to give her the love and support, and he has not given her that. He has ripped her of that.”

In addition to the three years of probation, Gutierrez will also have to complete a domestic violence program and undergo counseling for anger management.

Statement from Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman:

“The State of New Mexico has the deepest sympathy for Kristy Rivera’s family. Over the past several years, we have extensively investigated her death.  We hired multiple experts, including a secondary forensic pathologist, to look at the evidence and render an opinion as to the cause and manner of death.   The State has been in contact with Ms. Rivera’s family about this case every step of the way.  The State sought justice and the outcome today is what is supported by the evidence.”