Bungled Vail Valley crime spree concludes with fourth person headed to jail | VailDaily.com

Bungled Vail Valley crime spree concludes with fourth person headed to jail

EAGLE — The fourth and final participant in a botched 2015 crime spree was sentenced Monday to two years in state prison.

Mateo Serna-Gutierrez, 24, was sentenced for his part in a 2015 armed robbery in Gypsum that resulted in Good Samaritan Alan Gonzalez being shot three times.

Serna-Gutierrez pled guilty Jan. 23 to a misdemeanor count of aiding escape. However, he did not show up for his sentencing hearing for that case, plus an unrelated charge of possession with intent to distribute drugs — in this case, cocaine — in a buy arranged by an Eagle County Sheriff's Office undercover detective. That's a class 3 felony.

During Monday's sentencing hearing, Serna-Gutierrez said he wanted to be a better member of the community, and a better example for younger family members. He and his attorney Terry O'Connor said he was struggling with drug addiction at the time.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Kirwan said Serna-Gutierrez had not complied with probation, and argued for prison.

District Court Judge Russell Granger said he felt it was unlikely that Serna-Gutierrez would comply with probation this time, given his past failure to do so.

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"Can I get a chance to prove you wrong?" Serna-Gutierrez asked.

"You kind of had a chance," Granger replied.

With that, Granger sentenced Serna-Gutierrez to two years in state prison.

"Finally, these crime victims have received their justice, which was long in coming," said Assistant District Attorney Heidi McCollum. "The outrage of this crime was only surpassed by the horror of violence against the victims inside the store and a Good Samaritan who was truly a hero in trying to thwart this crime."

Bungled crime spree

Serna-Gutierrez was part of the crime spree led by Jesus Miranda, who is serving 42 years in state prison for attempted second-degree murder as the shooter of a Good Samaritan.

On Sept. 4, 2015, Miranda and a 17-year old female tried to rob two check-cashing businesses — Dinero Rapido in Eagle and Tienda Montes in Gypsum — within a half-hour of each other. He stole no money from either.

At Tienda Montes in Gypsum, Miranda held two women at gunpoint. He hit one of the women in the face with the butt of his pistol when she told him there was no money in the safe.

Alan Gonzalez was on his way into Tienda Montes to conduct some business with the retailer, and watched the robbery attempt through the store window. When Miranda and the 17-year old girl fled the store, Miranda pointed his gun at Gonzalez, told him not to call the cops, and tried to run away.

Gonzalez chased Miranda down, wrestled him to the ground and grabbed him in a headlock.

Miranda shot Gonzalez three times, once in the chest. Gonzalez was rushed to the hospital and has since fully recovered.

Within less than an hour, Serna-Gutierrez had picked up both the 17-year old and initial getaway driver, Arnaldo Lucero-Almanza, near the Gypsum fire station as they were fleeing from the police. Serna-Gutierrez drove each of them to separate locations in an attempt to help them avoid arrest, according to police reports.

Getaway gone wrong

Garfield County resident Daniel Happle drove Miranda's final getaway car, but they didn't get far.

Happle picked Miranda up from his hiding place, behind a Dumpster in a Gypsum convenience store. From there, Happle sped west along Interstate 70 through a 20 mph construction zone in Glenwood Canyon at the time.

When Happle turned west on U.S. Highway 6 west of Glenwood Springs, he topped 100 mph. A Garfield County deputy tried to pull him over for an expired plate near New Castle.

Near Coal Ridge High School, Happle slowed to around 10 mph and jumped out of the car to flee on foot, leaving Miranda in the passenger's seat. Once a deputy managed to pull the car's brake, Miranda identified himself as Roberto Neveraz, of whom there was no record, so police added criminal impersonation (a felony) to Miranda's long list of charges.

Meanwhile, Happle was found hiding in some bushes about a half-hour later by the Glenwood Springs Police Department's K9 unit. Police told Happle to come out, and when he refused, police reportedly sent the dog in to fetch him.

Police said both Happle and Miranda smelled of alcohol, and started questioning Happle, who told them he had eaten a bag of methamphetamine during the pursuit, according to his arrest affidavit.

"Our appreciation goes to the diligent work of Eagle County Sheriff's officers and investigators who pieced together a solid case," McCollum said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

All Four sentenced

All four participants in the 2015 crime have now been separately sentenced.

• Jesus Miranda is serving 42 years in state prison for attempted 2nd degree murder for shooting Good Samaritan Alan Gonzalez.

• Arnaldo Lucero-Almanza, the initial getaway driver for Miranda was sentenced to 20 years in the state prison on April 5, 2017.

• Mateo Serna-Gutierrez was sentenced to two years in state prison for aiding an escape and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

• A 17-year old female pled guilty to helping Miranda and Lucero-Almanza’s escape. She pled guilty to attempted first degree murder and first degree burglary, and is serving a six-year sentence as a juvenile offender.

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