Former Middleton High School Student Arrested in Mexico For 2010 Shooting

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MTT News Desk's picture
Matt Geiger
A Wanted Poster Issued by United States Marshals.

When authorities began tracking a Mexican national suspected of killing 19-year-old Antonio Perez, they didn’t know the fugitive’s whereabouts.

In fact, they weren’t even sure if the suspect, a Middleton High School student, was a teenager or a man in his early 20s. The person they sought also went by three names: Ivan Mateo-Lozenzo, Alberto Ramirez and Arain Gutierrez.

The two-and-a-half year investigation that followed culminated December 28 in the arrest of the individual now known as Arain Gutierrez. He was captured in Cancun, Mexico.

His real age is yet to be verified, according to authorities.

Gutierrez was awaiting extradition as of this newspaper’s press time, but the incident long ago prompted local school officials to reexamine how they verify the identities of their pupils. (A law enforcement agent familiar with the case said extradition of Gutierrez could take as long as a year.)

It was a joint investigation by U.S. Marshals, Madison Police and the Dane County District Attorney's Office that led to Gutierrez’s arrest. He is charged with the April 28, 2010, shooting death of Perez in the Webcrafters parking lot on Fordem Avenue in the City of Madison. Investigators believe the killing was gang related.

According to a joint statement issued by the U.S. Marshals Office and Madison Police, their investigation after the shooting resulted in the immediate arrest of three suspects.  But Gutierrez and Billy Wenner-Say were able to initially elude arrest and flee the Madison area.  

Investigators said they believed both absconded to their home countries - Gutierrez to Mexico and Wenner-Say to Guatemala.

In the years that followed, Marshals in Madison and San Diego, along with Madison Police, continued tracking the suspects.

Their joint press release indicated that within the last six months, they verified Gutierrez was in Cancun. The Dane County District Attorney’s Office provided the necessary legal support for Gutierrez’s international arrest warrant.

Investigators narrowed the information to a specific address in Cancun and closed in.  

On December 28, at 9:30 p.m. Cancun time, Mexican authorities arrested the former Middleton High School student.

Long before authorities located Gutierrez, they were faced with the quandary of trying to find a man who did not provide a home address when he transferred into the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District.

The school district knew him as Arain Gutierrez, but he was “known by several other” aliases, according to an incident report released by the Madison Police Department shortly after the shooting. The same report indicated his age was 21 – not 18 as it was on file with Middleton High School.

The suspect was spotted in the Port Arthur, Texas area after fleeing Dane County.  Some authorities believed he and at least one other suspect quickly crossed the border into Mexico, according to a spokesperson for the Texas television news station KFDM.

The suspect was a known gang member and was already in a Wisconsin law enforcement database, under the name of Gutierrez, prior to the Perez’s murder.

“Who’s to say any of those names is the right name,” said Joel DeSpain, public information officer for the Madison Police Department, in 2010. DeSpain went on to say the name Gutierrez appeared on the criminal complaint filed by police here in the wake of the shooting.

Michelle Larson, who at the time was a public relations specialist for the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, confirmed the suspect known to many in the community as Arain Gutierrez was enrolled at Middleton High School in 2010.

Larson said at the time, there were four documents students enrolling in the district were required to provide, depending on the grade they hoped to enter. Most students were forced to complete an enrollment form and provide proof of residency. If they had attended school in Wisconsin previously, they had to be in the state’s database.

Kindergarteners enrolling in the district were asked to provide proof of age, but those enrolling at higher grade levels were not required to do so.

Yet there existed loopholes, including the fact that the district may not turn away students claiming to be homeless. (A source in the district indicated Gutierrez fell into that category.)

Larson said Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann made multiple announcements to students in 2010, explaining as much as possible about heightened security at the school while officers began their search for Gutierrez. Law enforcement also had an increased presence at the school directly after the shooting.

Superintendent Don Johnson in 2010 spoke to the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School Board about the matter, saying the district planned to review all of its enrollment policies and practices.

Johnson said the district’s guidelines were “comparable” to those in other districts. He added that administrators would look into the possibility of adding more stringent regulations.

“It’s a highly unusual case…but if we can in any way scrutinize at a higher level we would do that,” Johnson told the school board.

He added, “It’s certainly important.”

Also in 2010, DeSpain said there were “some pretty sophisticated” fake identification documents on the market for willing buyers attempting to mask their true identities.

Last week, Kathy Spahn, the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District’s open enrollment coordinator and registrar, said several aspects of enrollment have changed since Gutierrez was a student here.

“Since 2010, we require verification of age and name,” Spahn said. “We have to make three attempts [to obtain] this verification through birth certificate, passport, drivers license, state ID, or court document, and if [the] family is not able to provide the information we involve the school’s social workers to help them acquire a birth certificate,” she said in an email.

Spahn said the district does not delay enrollment for students in grades 1-12 if they cannot provide proof of age. However, the district is required to follow up to confirm ages.

All incoming four-year-old kindergarten and traditional kindergarten students must provide proof of age before they are able to enroll, she added.

“We have also have [ramped] up verification of residency,” Spahn said. “All address changes require proof of residency.”

Cheryl Janssen, administrative assistant to the Middleton-Cross Plains Area superintendent, indicated last week there remain some legal limitations on what steps the district can take. According to Janssen, the district may not ask prospective students if they are illegal aliens.

Madison Police said after Gutierrez’s arrest that it took inter-agency collaboration to identify and eventually nab the many-monikered suspect.

“This type of senseless gang violence will not be tolerated in the City of Madison, and for more than 2-1/2 years the Madison Police Department has been working diligently and cooperatively with the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Dane County District Attorney, to make sure this fugitive did not escape justice,” reads investigators’ joint statement issued following the arrest. “This case demonstrates, again, the strong relationship that exists between the MPD and U.S. Marshals.”






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