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Case of missing Lexington girl remains open 35 years later

Published: Jun. 7, 2021 at 11:00 AM EDT
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LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - On June 6, 1986, 4-year-old Jessica “Jessie” Gutierrez was discovered to be missing from her residence in Red Bank. Still, 35 years later, lead investigator Sergeant David Pritchard at the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department has not lost hope of solving the case.

“I think it’s important to not give up hope. Simply because the mother has not given up hope, and I think it’s our responsibility to continue to look into this and try to investigate it,” says Pritchard.

Debra Gutierrez, mother of Jessie Gutierrez, still remembers that day 35 years ago whenever she visits the site Jessie was taken from.

“This is where I loved my children with my whole heart and soul. Home is where your heart is, and if you’re not safe at home, where are you gonna be safe at,” says Gutierrez.

Pritchard transitioned from his position as an investigator to a training department 15 years ago, but he asked to hold onto Jessica’s case.

“It is unusual for a trainer to be working cases like this, however, whenever I got transferred over, I asked to keep this case. Simply because at that time already had a good bit of time invested into it and I felt like it was something I really wanted to keep and hold on to and see it until it was finally completed and solved,” said Pritchard.

Pritchard says he speaks to Gutierrez regularly and has a good working relationship with her.

“I try my best to empathize with her. I tried to, within reason I put myself in her shoes and think how I would be acting and reacting, if it were my four-year-old little girl that were missing,” says Pritchard.

Pritchard added that the age of the case does not make it a cold case. He also said that the case has never officially closed in its 35 years and he continues to investigate any leads that are sent in.

Gutierrez continues to grieve the loss of her daughter and longs for answers.

“And it’s just hard to go home without her. I feel I cannot go, you know, and die without knowing where my daughter is and have her in a proper place,” says Gutierrez.

The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department urges anyone with information regarding the disappearance of Jessica Gutierrez to call Crime Stoppers at 888-CRIME-SC or 888-274-6372.

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