Suspect sentenced to stayed prison, probation for kidnapping 2-year-old in Pope County
Benigno Alvarez-Gutierrez, 22, was convicted of kidnapping for snatching a toddler from his bedroom in rural Westport. Alvarez-Gutierrez will serve probation while a prison sentence is stayed.
GLENWOOD — A 22-year-old man charged in Pope County with snatching a toddler from his bedroom in the night has been sentenced to probation and a stayed prison term.
Benigno Alvarez-Gutierrez, originally charged as Victor Ramirez Alvarez, was sentenced Feb. 9 in Pope County District Court to three years of supervised probation for felony kidnapping. A 21-month prison sentence was stayed.
He will be monitored by the Minnesota Department of Corrections — Field Services. If he successfully completes probation, he will not serve any of the prison time.
Alvarez-Gutierrez was arrested March 17, 2022, after an Amber Alert was issued for a 2-year-old male.
Alvarez-Gutierrez knew the child and the child's mother, and knew the layout of their rural Westport home, according to the filed criminal complaint.
When interviewed by law enforcement after she reported her son missing in the early morning hours of March 17, the mother named Alvarez-Gutierrez. She said Alvarez-Gutierrez “was very fond of her son” and would frequently give them both rides, according to the complaint.
The child was found safe late that day in an unoccupied garage located in Zion Township in Stearns County. A woman there reported finding the child in a booster-style seat in her garage.
According to the criminal complaint, the mother returned home from work after 2 a.m. and sometime later discovered her child was missing when she headed to the bedroom she shared with her son. He had been in the care of family members, and they reported putting him to bed at 8 p.m.
While searching for the child, family members found a note written in both English and Spanish asking for forgiveness for taking the child and indicating a prior plan to do so.
Sheriff’s deputies responding to the home found what appeared to be footprints outside of the child’s bedroom. A canine brought to the scene was alerted to the child’s scent, and followed it down the driveway and on a roadway before it was lost.
The Amber Alert for the boy was eventually issued at 4:36 p.m. March 17. Authorities received a tip that Alvarez-Gutierrez had been seen with a child around 8:15 p.m.
A search of Alvarez-Gutierrez’s residence yielded clothing the child was last seen wearing, but not the boy.
He was stopped while he was driving at 11:14 p.m. that day, but the boy was not with him.
Alvarez-Gutierrez admitted to taking the boy in an interview with law enforcement, according to the complaint, and said he dropped the boy off in the empty garage. He knew the people at the residence, but they were not home and were not told of the child's presence.
An examination to determine Alvarez-Gutierrez's competency was ordered in August. Upon receipt of the report, Judge Melissa Listug in October ruled he was competent to proceed.
Alvarez-Gutierrez pleaded guilty to the kidnapping charge in November. A charge of depriving another person of custodial/parental rights was dismissed in a plea agreement.
Alvarez-Gutierrez at sentencing in February also was ordered to serve 329 days in jail, for which he received full credit.
Among the many probation conditions ordered by Judge Listug are cooperating with any searches, obtaining permission before leaving the state, not using or possessing firearms, not using alcohol or controlled substances and having no contact with the child or the child's family.