Man sentenced for fleeing to Mexico after crash that permanently injured Bakersfield woman

Crime Watch

Esteban Valdez Gutierrez, file image.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Todd Farnsworth wasn’t surprised when the drunken driver who crashed into his daughter’s car, inflicting permanent serious injuries, failed to show for sentencing in May 2020.

What pained him, Farnsworth said in court Wednesday, was that Esteban Valdez Gutierrez was allowed to remain out of custody after pleading no contest to hit-and-run and DUI charges.

Given 90 days to get his affairs in order, Gutierrez fled to Mexico, where he was arrested 18 months later.

Being allowed to remain free when facing years in prison would give anyone an idea to run, Farnsworth said. He understands there are complexities in the legal system, but he told the court the lengthy delay, the months spent wondering when Gutierrez would be captured, added to his family’s suffering.

Gutierrez, 39, won’t be going anywhere for a while.

He has been sentenced to a total of 15 years and four months in prison — including a sentence of two years and eight months imposed Wednesday for failing to appear at his original sentencing hearing.

The morning of Dec. 1, 2016, Gutierrez ran a red light as he drove south on Calloway Drive and broadsided the car of Jourdan Farnsworth as she turned into the parking lot of Riverlakes Community Church, where she was headed to lead a Bible study class, according court filings.

Gutierrez ran but was arrested shortly afterward, police said.

Jourdan Farnsworth, 23 at the time of the crash, suffered injuries including brain trauma and remains in a vegetative state.

In February 2020, Gutierrez pleaded no contest to driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury and hit-and-run causing permanent serious injury.

Three months later, on the date of his sentencing, the GPS monitor Gutierrez was required to wear while out of custody sent an alert indicating it was being tampered with, prosecutors said. Officers found the monitor, which had been cut off.

Bakersfield police and the U.S. Marshals Service worked to find him, eventually developing information he was hiding in Tijuana. U.S. Marshals, working with Mexican authorities, took him into custody.

At the time of his capture, District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said, “Gutierrez’s crimes have caused irreparable harm to our community and forever impacted the life of the victim and her family.”

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