HOUSTON — Family and friends held a vigil Wednesday night for the mother of four who was found shot to death after police said she was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend.
Dozens gathered where 38-year-old Maira Gutierrez’s body was found inside her SUV near Mykawa and the South Loop.
Family members describe her as a loving mother, aunt and friend.
There's an ongoing manhunt underway for 30-year-old Daniel Chacon. Pasadena police said he kidnapped Gutierrez, his ex-girlfriend, when she came to visit their 5-month-old daughter. He's also the prime suspect in her death.
Gutierrez's family members are urging Chacon to turn himself in and face the consequences of his actions "like a man."
“I would say turn yourself in, you know, don’t take the easy way out. Don’t run away. Man up to what you did and face your crimes like a man,” family friend Crystal Sapien said.
Gutierrez's family set up a GoFundMe account to help with expenses. Click here for more information.
According to Pasadena police, they got reports Monday morning just before 10 about a woman who was being forced into an SUV at gunpoint at an apartment complex off Red Bluff Road near Beltway 8.
RELATED: Ex-wife of kidnapping, homicide suspect says he tried to kill her multiple times, but she got away
After talking with witnesses, police said they identified Chacon as the kidnapping suspect and Gutierrez as the victim.
Around 3 p.m. Monday, investigators said Gutierrez's body was found inside the abandoned SUV on Cedar Crest Street, near the intersection of Mykawa Road and the South Loop. The SUV appeared to be run off the road and ditched at some sort of distribution center. Police said freeway barriers were stored at the location.
Chacon has already been charged with aggravated kidnapping in the case and is considered the suspect in her death.
Tears, hugs and prayers were flowing at the vigil as family and friends gathered to remember Gutierrez.
“She was a great person and big-hearted,” her ex-husband Jimmy Puente said. “She did not deserve this. Nobody deserved this.”
The vigil was held at the location her body was found. There was still crime scene tape hanging.
Emotions remained raw for her children as those in attendance wrapped each other with comfort during the difficult time.
“She cried and cried for help,” Puente said. “I promise that your kids, our kids will be safe and your little girl trust me.”
Friends and family wore purple ribbons to raise awareness for domestic violence.
Gutierrez's oldest son is 19-year-old Jimmy Puente Jr. He said he will miss his mother a lot, especially the unconditional support she provided.
“I just miss my mom,” Puente Jr. said “Her support – my mom was always supportive. Every morning she’d tell me good morning ... 'Good morning, I hope you have a good day.'"
Puente Jr. said he has no words for Chacon, only gratitude for those who have helped emotionally and financially in the wake of the tragedy.
“Thank you for all the support and everything. My mom would really appreciate it,” he said.
Gutierrez's niece, Daliyah Gurrero, might have been the last family member to see her alive besides her 5-month-old daughter.
“She was the best mom and she was the best tia,” Guerrero said. “We just need justice.”
Gutierrez dropped Guerrero off at school the day she was found dead.
“She dropped me off at school on my birthday, Monday, and, um, she told me, 'I love you,'” Guerrero said.
Search for Chacon
On Wednesday, Pasadena police had no updates on the search for Chacon.
They are asking anyone with information to call police.
Domestic violence history
Gutierrez was living with her sister's family after she moved out of Chacon's apartment. There was a history of domestic violence between Gutierrez and Chacon.
Gutierrez's family said she tried everything she could to get away from Chacon's violence, including reaching out to his ex-wife. His ex-wife, who has three children with Chacon, said he tried to kill her several times but she got out of the relationship alive.
Chacon's ex-wife said Gutierrez reached out to her last month looking for help. She said she told her to run from the relationship.
Pasadena police said Chacon called them on Sept. 1, accusing Gutierrez of driving drunk with their infant in the car. Police determined she wasn't intoxicated, and that's when they said Gutierrez accused Chacon of assaulting her a few days prior.
Two weeks later, Gutierrez called the police again. This time she said Chacon "grabbed her by the hair and dragged" her through an apartment. She also said he had assaulted her several times in the past.
The District Attorney's Office declined charges in both instances.
Chacon and Gutierrez were not living together but had a 5-month-old child together, according to family members. Chacon had custody of the child, police said. The child was not hurt during the kidnapping incident.
A closer look at Chacon's criminal history shows a pattern of domestic violence dating back to 2012 when he was accused of punching his former common-law wife.
In 2013, he was accused of punching her again and was charged with assault.
In 2017, Chacon was accused of nearly choking her to death, one of two times his ex-wife said he tried to kill her.
Domestic violence resources
Domestic and family violence cases in the Houston area have increased at an alarming rate. Victims often suffer in silence because they feel scared, helpless or ashamed.
RELATED: Wanted | Man accused of kidnapping woman from Pasadena apartment now suspect in her death, police say
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, here are some discreet ways to reach out for help.
The Houston Area Women’s Center has a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence at 713-528-2121 or 1-800-256-0551.
The Family Time Crisis Center can also be reached 24 hours a day at 281-446-2615.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Crisis Text Line: Text START to 88788.