Texas man sentenced to life in prison for fatal punch outside pizza shop

PLANO, Texas — A Texas man was sentenced to life in prison for delivering a punch that killed another man who was picking up a pizza for dinner at the same time.

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James Gutierrez, 38, of Plano, was convicted and sentenced for aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, Collin County District Attorney Greg Wills said in a statement.

“No one should ever be in fear of being assaulted by a stranger while picking up dinner on the way home from work, let alone suffer a fatal punch,” Wills said. “While it can’t bring the deceased victim back to his family, the jury’s verdict of life in prison is the right answer for a long-term, violently dangerous man who preys upon unsuspecting people just trying to enjoy their lives.”

The conviction stems from a July 31, 2020, incident outside a Little Caesars restaurant in Plano, KTVT reported.

The victim had stopped at the restaurant and ordered a pizza, KDFW-TV reported. Gutierrez and his fiance arrived a few minutes later and also ordered a pizza but decided to wait in their car, according to the television station.

When the victim left the restaurant, he placed the pizza on the hood of his truck and was called over by Gutierrez, according to a news release from Collin County officials. Gutierrez left his vehicle and punched the victim in the head with a closed fist, the release stated.

A Collin County jury convicted Gutierrez of aggravated assault. During the punishment hearing, prosecutors presented evidence that Gutierrez assaulted his fiancé while on bond, was a gang member, and had been previously convicted of several felonies. The convictions included aggravated assault, retaliation, burglary of a habitation, failure to register as a sex offender, and robbery, according to the county’s news release.

Those factors led to the jury’s recommendation for a life sentence.