Investigators believe a woman was killed by her estranged husband over a pending divorce, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said Wednesday.
Pedro Gutierrez, 24, of New Milford, was charged with murder and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose after U.S. Customs agents pulled him off a Colombia-bound flight at Orlando International Airport Tuesday night, Molinelli said. Authorities had been searching for Gutierrez after his estranged wife, Shaday Betancourt, 23, was found stabbed at a relative’s East Forest Avenue house in Teaneck where she was staying.
Betancourt’s brother discovered her body Tuesday afternoon and brought her to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center where she was pronounced dead, Molinelli said.
Gutierrez bound and stabbed Betancourt Tuesday morning, then drove to John F. Kennedy International Airport where he boarded a flight to Orlando, Molinelli said. Although he paid cash for the ticket, Port Authority Police found his name on the passenger list. Witnesses told police they saw Gutierrez in the East Forest Avenue area that morning, authorities said.
“We knew that he was on the run. It was just a matter of tracking him,” Molinelli said.
The flight from JFK to Colombia had a layover in Orlando, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman.
Customs agents were alerted when Gutierrez's passport was scanned as he got on the flight from Orlando to Bogotá, Colombia, Molinelli said. The accused murderer was taken off the plane about five minutes before takeoff, the prosecutor said.
Gutierrez and the victim are both from Colombia and were married there but separated in July 2011, Molinelli said.
"There had been no prior reported incidents of domestic violence between the two," Molinelli said.
Gutierrez waived extradition and is expected to be back in New Jersey within a day or so, the prosecutor said late Wednesday afternoon. Orange County Jail records show Gutierrez remained in custody late Wednesday and officials said he was being held without bail.
"Additional charges are expected to be lodged against him as the investigation continues," Molinelli said.
Prosecutor’s Office investigators were in Orlando Wednesday, but Molinelli would not say if Gutierrez was cooperating with detectives.
It was unclear if investigators had found the murder weapon, but Molinelli said a search of the car Gutierrez parked at JFK had turned up "evidence of the crime."
Molinelli said Gutierrez worked as a busboy at Noche de Colombia restaurant on West Palisade Avenue in Englewood. An employee who declined to be identified said he had not seen Gutierrez recently and did not know him well.
Neighbors interviewed Tuesday said they didn’t know the victim and were shocked by the grisly crime.
"It's too close to home," an East Forest Avenue resident said.
Article first published 2:17 p.m. Tuesday and updated late Wednesday.