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Big Lake man charged in Pope County abduction case

Mar 22, 2022 06:03AM ● By Editor
Benigno Alvarez-Gutierrez, also known as Victor Ramirez Alvarez. Photo credit: Kandiyohi County Jail

By Rebecca Omastiak from KSTP-TV • March 21, 2022

A Big Lake man has been charged with kidnapping and depriving another of custodial rights in connection with the abduction of a 2-year-old boy in Pope County last week.

According to court documents, 21-year-old Benigno Alvarez-Gutierrez, also known as Victor Ramirez Alvarez, now faces two felony-level charges.

The Pope County Sheriff’s Office reported the 2-year-old boy was found safe Thursday evening and an Amber Alert issued following his abduction was canceled around 1:30 a.m. Friday.

Acting on information learned during the investigation, the Pope County Sheriff’s Office says their deputies arrested Alvarez-Gutierrez outside his home just after 11 p.m. Thursday following a brief struggle.

A criminal complaint details the following:

A woman, later identified as the boy’s mother, placed a 911 call early Thursday morning to report her son was missing from her home in Westport. 

She told authorities that while she was working the night before, her son was in the care of family, who said he was placed in his bed at 8 p.m. The family members in the home at the time said they then went to bed.

When the boy’s mother returned from work early Thursday morning, she said she discovered her son was not in his bed.

She and her family members searched the home for the boy before calling 911. 

During that search, the mother reported finding a note written in Spanish and English asking for forgiveness for taking the boy.

Responding deputies found footprints outside the home at the bedroom window. A K9 was able to track the boy’s scent from the bedroom to the driveway and south along the road near the home.

After the Amber Alert was issued, authorities spoke with the boy’s father and family, and determined they had no involvement in the boy’s abduction. The boy’s father and family also did not know where the boy currently lived, according to an interview with authorities.

While continuing to speak with authorities, the boy’s mother said a man she knew, later identified as Alvarez-Gutierrez, was fond of her son. She said Alvarez-Gutierrez would frequently give them rides, buy things for her son and take photos with him. 

The boy’s mother said she had thought Alvarez-Gutierrez had moved to California, based on a recent phone conversation she had had with him during which he had tried to convince her to move there with him. Authorities also learned during their conversation with the boy’s mother that Alvarez-Gutierrez was interested in dating her but that she had refused.

Authorities learned Alvarez-Gutierrez was familiar with the layout of the house in which the boy and his mother lived, and that he was aware of the mother’s work schedule.

During the investigation, Alvarez-Gutierrez reportedly made several attempts to get in touch with the boy’s mother via phone calls and texts. During one of those calls, the boy’s mother spoke to him with law enforcement officials listening. Alvarez-Gutierrez reportedly acted surprised when the boy’s mother brought up the abduction and he claimed to be driving back from California. He made no mention of knowing the boy’s whereabouts.

Authorities were able to track Alvarez-Gutierrez’s vehicle; he was stopped but the boy was not with him at the time.

A 911 caller then reported finding the boy in her garage in Zion Township, in Stearns County, late Thursday night. Law enforcement officials responded and brought the boy back to his mother. 

Authorities then went to Alvarez-Gutierrez’s home and arrested him. During an interview with officials, Alvarez-Gutierrez said he made a mistake and had taken the boy from his home. He admitted to dropping the boy off in an empty garage at the residence of someone he knew, but that no one was home at the time. The owners of the residence said they found the boy in a booster seat in their garage, and said no one had alerted them of the boy’s presence in their garage.

A preliminary hearing was held Monday. Alvarez-Gutierrez is expected to make his an initial court appearance Thursday.

Editor’s Note: This copy has been updated to indicate the Big Lake man’s name listed on court documents is Benigno Alvarez-Gutierrez, following an updated filing issued Monday. Alvarez-Gutierrez’s age is also now listed as 21, following that updated filing.

To see the original report and read related posts, follow this link to the KSTP-TV website.

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