A “jealous” Wisconsin man “obsessed” with his ex-girlfriend to the point of murdering her new lover in May 2020 was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, a judge in the Badger State ruled Tuesday.
Zachariah Anderson, 42, was also sentenced to two years in prison for two additional counts and six years for a third count, all to be served consecutively. The defendant will be eligible for extended supervision – parole – after 40 years, the court ruled. He will receive credit for 1,092 days already spent in custody.
Anderson was convicted by a jury of his peers in Kenosha County on a charge of intentional murder for the presumed death of Rosalio Gutierrez Jr., 40, on March 22. During his trial, prosecutors successfully argued that the attack, fueled by jealousy, left blood spattered throughout the victim’s apartment – and left the location of his body a mystery that has been maintained to this day.
Jurors also found the defendant guilty on one count each of stalking Gutierrez and of stalking Sadie Beacham, the mother of Anderson’s children, and on one count of hiding the dead man’s corpse.
Circuit Court for Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder, the longest-serving judge in the state and the same septuagenarian jurist who oversaw the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse delivered the sentence after a lengthy and highly emotional sentencing hearing.
“The jury found him guilty as to each of those charges,” the judge said after listing out each conviction. Schroeder said the state considered Anderson a habitual offender due to a marijuana-related offense he was convicted of in South Dakota months before the murder.
Before delivering the verdict, Schroeder delivered a lengthy soliloquy about the meaning of a life sentence under Wisconsin state law over the decades since he graduated from law school. This long-winded effort offered a non-exhaustive survey of legislative and judicial history related to how and when parole was offered to those sentenced to life – how time spent in prison before parole has been offered to people has waxed and waned over the years.
“What you did was frightening,” Schroeder said. “Horrible. And you can wag your head all you want. The jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that you did it. And so – the loss of these people is beyond measure.”
The defense spent several minutes disputing numerous allegations made in a pre-sentencing report – some highly material, including an allegation that the defendant had non-consensual sex with a minor when he was also a minor, and others less material, including details about two “bizarre” packs of sardines that were or were not open inside of an automobile during a law enforcement search.
In the end, however, Schroeder said that the type of crime being sentenced and the “enormity” of it would not really be influenced by the details in the pre-sentencing report.
A lengthy series of victim impact statements were also delivered during the hearing – the judge noted that the purpose of those was to influence the sentence while later admitting that he knew the victims were probably not going to be happy with the sentence since many of them had asked for life without the possibility of parole.
“Three years ago, Zachariah Anderson took a life,” Kayla Petty, the mother of Gutierrez’s first child, said in the first victim impact statement – one the judge briefly cut off as she broke a court rule and began to address the defendant directly.
“I never imagined this would be my life,” Sadie Beacham said during her impact statement – apologizing to her daughter and Gutierrez’s family for the void left with his passing, through tears, as mascara ran down her cheeks.
As the verdicts were read earlier this year, Anderson remained stoic, only occasionally moving his face but showing little emotion. This perceived lack of emotion was bitterly referenced by one of the women giving victim impact statements during the hearing.
A similar scene played out before the court on Tuesday, with Anderson largely appearing bored or unmoved until the defendant’s daughter, wearing a beige Smurfs hoodie, took the stand – immediately following her mother’s tearful address.
After initially signaling that she didn’t have anything to say because of how she prepared her statement, she directly addressed her father. The judge allowed the teenage girl to break his court’s rules.
“Did he ever love me? Or was I just a pawn? A toy? Or his little golden retriever?” Anderson’s daughter asked out loud. As she commented on the impact her father’s “abusive patterns” had on her life, described going into “a really dark place,” and the even harder work it took to regain her “confidence,” her scorn eventually gave way to sobs.
“I think you’d like to know it’s beautiful outside,” the defendant’s daughter told him. “It’s for sure frisbee weather. And I can’t wait to get…some turbulence would catch it, but we would have fun. Forever and always, I miss you, and I love you. But a quote from the ’13 Letters.’ ‘Do not come back and expect me to welcome you back in with open arms. You need to work on yourself first.’ I’ve worked on myself for the past three years. It’s your turn now if you want your baby girl back.”
Anderson nearly teared up during his daughter’s brief speech and appeared increasingly glum as she cried over her loss.
“My son’s blood was all over the front living space with his blood spatter on his children’s drawings and family photographs,” Gutierrez’s mother said. “My only son taken so savagely.”
Earlier in the day, outside the courthouse and later in the hallway, Anderson had several supporters in a show of force. They wore T-shirts emblazoned with #FreeZachariahAnderson and peace signs.
During the three-week trial, the defense argued the lack of the victim’s body was a major weakness in the state’s case.
Defense lawyer Nicole Muller noted this absence during her opening statement on the case. Law enforcement does not know what happened to Gutierrez’s body, she said. They don’t know where any “alleged remains” are. No witnesses placed Anderson at Guttierrez’s apartment on the day he died. There are no witnesses to him being suspicious or covered in blood, she said. No body. No human remains. No indication of the defendant cleaning a crime scene.
“They don’t have any of that,” Muller argued.
But the lack of a body wasn’t enough for the defense – the state leaned hard into a murder theory based on motive.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley, however, painted a picture of Anderson as a jealous, controlling ex-boyfriend.
The prosecutor told jurors that Beacham broke things off with the defendant because of how he acted — coming and going from her home as he pleased, not contributing financially regularly, and other less-than-ideal qualities in a partner. Though she let him have contact with their children, “she was ready to move on,” Graveley said.
Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.
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