When 34-year-old Colorado resident Rita Gutierrez-Garcia suddenly went missing in March 2018, it devastated her three young sons. However, they still hoped their mother would return soon, but even that was cruelly taken away from them when the police discovered her remains four years later. NBC’s ‘Dateline: Finding Rita’ delves into the investigation that helped comprehend what happened to Rita and who was responsible for her brutal death. While her killer was eventually brought to justice, the ordeal was traumatic for her children. In case you wish to know how they are holding up, we’ve got your back.
Who Are Rita Gutierrez-Garcia’s Kids?
Rita Gutierrez-Garcia lived in Longmont, Colorado, with her three sons, whom she shared with her former husband. Loved ones fondly remember how her biggest priority was to ensure her boys got everything they needed for a bright future. In March 2018, Rita was one semester away from completing her paralegal degree and hoped to make a career in law. At that time, her eldest son was 18, whereas her younger sons, Roman and Reyes, were 12 and 9, respectively.
On March 17, 2018, Rita stepped out in the evening to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with her friends while her kids stayed home. Sadly, it was the last time the boys saw their mother, as she didn’t return that night. The following morning, their grandmother, Diane, visited them and asked about Rita, which is when they suspected something wrong had happened to her. Though the boys were upset, Diane dropped them off at a family event and searched for her daughter. Unfortunately, she was nowhere to be found, and the family reported her missing to the police.
Rita’s absence was challenging for her kids, especially Roman and Reyes, who were minors. Moreover, the court granted their custody to their grandmother and their aunt, Jessica Reyes, and they went to live with them. Despite their young age, Roman and Reyes helped distribute flyers to help search for Rita. In an August 2018 interview with CBS Colorado, the former shared, “I’m doing fine it’s just like, sometimes, I’ll be like fine, but sometimes I’ll be confused and not know what to think.”
On the other hand, Reyes stated, “We’re trying to stay positive.” Sadly, all their efforts turned futile when the police speculated that Rita had been murdered. This theory was proven when Juan Jose Figueroa Jr. was named the primary suspect in Rita’s disappearance. The subsequent investigation revealed that he had abducted the mother of three and strangled her to death. Learning that their mother was no more was extremely painful for Rita’s three sons, yet they hoped her killer would be brought to justice.
Where Are Rita Gutierrez-Garcia’s Kids Now?
After Juan was indicted in June 2021 for Rita’s kidnapping and murder, he revealed where he buried her. On April 28, 2022, the police finally found her remains in the nearby Weld County. After DNA testing confirmed it was Rita, her family was allowed to take her home for a funeral. Such unsettling events naturally disturbed her children deeply, yet they found some relief when Juan pled guilty to second-degree murder and kidnapping in June 2022. Consequently, he was sentenced to 48 years for murder and 12 additional years for kidnapping.
Since then, Rita’s sons have embraced privacy and prefer to live away from the public eye. Besides, their family has likely ensured they are not exposed to media scrutiny. From what we learned, Roman is around 16 and Reyes is around 13; they live under their grandmother and aunt’s care. On the other hand, their elder brother seemingly lives separately and has not shared many of his details in the public domain. With the love and support of their family, the three siblings are now focused on healing from their trauma and fulfilling the dreams their mother had for them.