WATSONVILLE—A father and son who have faced numerous marijuana-related charges in the past were arrested again on April 19 after a California Highway Patrol officer found nearly five pounds of marijuana in their vehicle.

According to CHP officer Sam Courtney, Elias Ayala Gutierrez, 50, and Eli Jacob Gutierrez, 29, were charged with possession of cannabis with intent to distribute and transportation of cannabis, both felonies. They were booked into Santa Cruz County Jail. Neither were in custody Monday, jail records showed.

According to Courtney, an officer stopped a 2015 Hyundai Sonata for speeding on Holohan Road near Green Valley Road around 11pm. During the stop, the officer learned that both father and son were on active probation. 

Both men also face probation violations.

Under state law, a person may possess 28.5 grams of cannabis plant material—about an ounce—and 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. They may also grow no more than six plants for personal use.

Santa Cruz County Cannabis Control Officer Sam LoForti said Monday that neither father nor son has applied for nor possesses a license to sell marijuana.

Eli Gutierrez was placed on probation in September 2021 after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. That charge was a reduction from the murder charges he was facing, which stemmed from a June 2018 incident in which he used a semi-automatic rifle to fatally shoot a man who was fleeing after reportedly burglarizing the Gutierrez residence on the 100 block of Lawrence Avenue.

Eli’s lawyers said at the time that he was defending his home, which had been the target of gang retaliation.

Investigators said the home was the site of an illegal marijuana dispensary, and that the Gutierrez family continued to sell pot, edibles, joints and vape pens even after Eli was facing murder charges from the 2018 shooting.

On Feb. 24, 2019, both father and son were charged with maintaining a place for selling or using a controlled substance, cultivating marijuana and possessing marijuana for sale. And in early 2019, the Bureau of Cannabis Control mailed Elias Gutierrez a formal letter telling him to stop illegal marijuana sales, police have said.

Investigators found numerous cannabis plants at the residence after serving a search warrant later that year.

The father and son were back in court that September to face charges that they continued to conduct illegal marijuana sales out of their residence, even after the previous arrests.

In offering the voluntary manslaughter plea, the court struck several of those charges and placed Eli on five years of probation.

Elias Gutierrez was convicted on April 1, 2021, of maintaining a place for selling or using a controlled substance and possession of marijuana for sale. He was given seven days in jail and two years of probation.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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