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January 31, 2023

Father pleads not guilty in illegal pot dispensary case

SANTA CRUZ — A Watsonville man accused of running an illegal marijuana dispensary out of his Watsonville home pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the charges and was released on his own recognizance.

Elias Gutierrez, 47, is suspected of selling marijuana illegally along with his son, 27-year-old Eli Gutierrez. He returns to court later this month for his preliminary hearing.

Eli Gutierrez – who is also facing murder charges for allegedly shooting an armed man who had burglarized his home to steal marijuana in July 2018 – has been released from Santa Cruz County Jail after posting $100,000 bond on the new charges. He is due back in court to enter a plea on Friday.

The father and son were arrested on Sept. 12 after police seized an estimated $200,000 worth of illegal marijuana plants and products, Watsonville Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Pulido said.

The July shooting was not the first time the Gutierrez’s Lawrence Street home came to the attention of authorities.

WPD also investigated a shooting in front of the residence in April 2018, while illegal marijuana sales were also occurring, Pulido said.

Additionally, the Bureau of Cannabis Control earlier this year mailed Eli Gutierrez a formal letter telling him to stop illegal marijuana sales.

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