PO Box 542
Milton-Freewater, OR 97862
The death of Marcos Gutierrez-Rodriguez, 29-years-old of Milton-Freewater, has been a trending news topic since his body was discovered beneath a bridge on May 22nd. Rise Media’s investigative team has been working hard to uncover the details of the events leading up to Gutierrez’s death, as well as understanding more about those involved.
In this lengthy report, we take a close look at the current status of the investigation and the graphic details which officials say they have discovered. These details come from public statements from law enforcement and court documents we obtained. We also take a close look at the first person arrested, in relation to the death of Gutierrez. Those details we gathered from interviews with a number of people with close knowledge of the suspect including family friends, former co-workers and personal friends.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The details below contain graphic details which may be offensive or bothersome to some viewers.
Gutierrez was well known locally as an eccentric and bright person. He attended school in Milton-Freewater and worked for several years at the local Dairy Queen on South Columbia Street. Co-workers describe him as outgoing, funny and full of life. His Facebook wall contains photos of his artwork, showing his creative mind and talent.
When he went missing the evening of May 20th, many close to him knew something had to be wrong. His friends and family maintained that it was totally out of character for Gutierrez to just go silent. They took to social media and organized a search party to locate him.
Around 1:39 am on Monday, May 22nd, the Milton-Freewater Rural Fire Department was dispatched to the scene of a fire beneath a bridge on Eastside Road in Milton-Freewater. While extinguishing the fire, they discovered burned human remains and notified the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office. Initially, officials say they were unable to identify him as his body was badly burned. The East Oregonian reported that the Sheriff’s office had stated that the sex or race of the body could not be determined because of the fire. Court documents later contradict that statement, revealing that fire department officials were able to determine the victim was a male.
While investigators were combing the scene for evidence, Gutierrez’s brother, Erasmo Gutierrez-Rodriguez allegedly notified officials that Marcos was missing. Officials say that Erasmo told them that another brother, Salvador, and his mom, Andrea, had contacted Gutierrez’s boyfriend, 24-year-old Conor Dayton. They say that Dayton was acting strange and had hidden from them inside a bathroom when they attempted to speak to him. Dayton lived on Lefore Road, a short distance from the bridge, the document states.
Around 11 am investigators, moved the body to Munselle-Rhoades Funeral Home in Milton-Freewater. An investigator was able to positively identify the body as that of Gutierrez by a tattoo located on the left arm/shoulder of the body. Later, the family also made a positive identification as well.
Around 10:05 pm, investigators say they interviewed Dayton at his home on the 5300 block of LeFore Road. “Dayton claimed he had not seen Marcos in at least five days and indicated he had been trying to find him as well,” the probable cause affidavit reads. Dayton allegedly told investigators several times that he was concerned because people thought that he was a suspect. Investigators note, in court documents, that Conor had injuries on both of his hands and scratch marks on his legs. They photographed these injuries. According to the document, “the location where the body was found was surrounded on one [side] by black berry bushes.”
By the end of the day, the Sheriff’s office had released a statement indicating that they believed Gutierrez had fallen asleep and a nearby fire had spread to where he was sleeping. The Union-Bulletin reported on the revised statement showing that Sheriff officials were pushing a narrative that described the scene as a campsite and Gutierrez’s death as an accident. Family and friends took to social media decrying this narrative and demanding answers.
“The family has requested the police to do an autopsy of the body because [law enforcement is] saying there is no evidence of foul play. The family is being told they will have to pay for the autopsy themselves,” one individual who identified themselves as a friend of the family posted in a local social media group. In a short time, hundreds of comments from citizens demanding Sheriff officials conduct a full and complete investigation appeared on posts related to the matter. The phone number and email address for the Umatilla County Sheriff began circulating. The Sheriff’s office later released a revised statement, announcing that they were working with the Oregon State Crime Lab for guidance on the investigation.
The following day, investigators responded to Dayton’s residence after receiving a call from Kyle Pierce about several guns missing from the inside of the residence. Pierce was roommates with Dayton according to officials. Dayton was interviewed again but denied involvement in the missing guns.
On May 24th, Oregon Dupty State Medical Examiner Dr. Larry Lewman conducted an autopsy on Gutierrez’s remains. “It was determined that Marcos had extremely high levels of methamphetamine in his system, which could have contributed to his death,” investigators told the court. “It was also determined that Marcos had low levels of carbon-monoxide in his system, which indicated that he was deceased at the time of the fire.”
On May 25th, investigators say they attempted to make contact with Dayton at his residence to obtain a DNA sample. They learned that Dayton had got a ride from a friend to the bus station in Walla Walla and say he was headed to Portland. They later learned from the bus station that Dayton was on a bus going through Spokane, WA with a destination of Twin Falls, ID. Investigators learned that Dayton’s mother lives in Spokane and thought he may be going there. They say they later learned through Spokane officials that Dayton was “estranged from his mother and would not go to her residence.”
On June 5th, investigators say they received a report from the Oregon State Police Forensics Laboratory, regarding “items collected from the scene of the fire.” Those items included fabric, a rock and some paper material removed from under the body. The report concluded that these items were found to contain gasoline residue.
On June 10th, Gutierrez’s family had gained access to his Facebook account. Officials say that while the family went through the messages, they learned that on May 20th Gutierrez was having a conversation with Dayton. “They said that Conor and Marcos were making plans to meet that night at 11 pm and Conor insisted on having Marcos meet him under the bridge.” Investigators, when they read the messages themselves days later, learned more context of the meeting. “Prior to May 20, 2017, Marcos and Conor had been arguing over the fact that Conor owed Marcos money. On May 20, 2017, Conor apologized to Marcos and they began talking about meeting, so that they could talk. Conor repeatedly asked Marcos to meet him under the bridge and told him that he would bring methamphetamine in order to pay Marcos back. Conor also told Marcos that he would bring lubrication, so they could have ‘makeup sex.’ The last message was from Marcos to Conor, in which Marcos told Conor he would leave to meet him at 11:00,” investigators said in court documents.
On July 7th, Milton-Freewater Police Department arrested Dayton for an outstanding warrant for failure to appear for a 2015 charge of shoplifting from Safeway, and a more recent charge of stealing a $1 non-alcoholic beverage from Sam’s Corner Mart. Dayton was booked into the Umatilla County Jail on those charges.
The next day, the lead investigator with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office and an investigator with the Oregon State Police met with Dayton. Dayton agreed to the collection of an oral DNA swab, an examination of a cell phone and to undergo a polygraph test. During the polygraph exam, performed by the OSP investigator, officials say that it was evident that Dayton was attempting countermeasures designed to defeat the examination.
Dayton was notified at the end of the exam that he had failed the exam and “had distinct reactions to questions about the fire.” Dayton continued to deny his involvement until Sheriff investigators re-entered the room with Facebook messages and the photos of his hands taken the evening after the discovery of Gutierrez’s body. Those photos, investigators say, show all of the hair being burned away from Dayton’s hands. They say that is when Dayton admitted that he had burned the body of Gutierrez, but denied killing him.
The following excerpt is from a Probable Cause Affidavit, obtained by Rise Media from the 6th District Court:
He said that he had met Marcos under the bridge and they had planned to do drugs and have sex. He claimed that he left at that time and returned home.
Conor said the next day, he learned that Marcos had never gone home, so we went back to the bridge and found Marcos sleeping. He said he woke Marcos and told him that his family was looking for him. he said Marcos told him that he had used too much methamphetamine the previous night and was too high to go home. Conor said he told Marcos he would keep his location a secret and would pretend to help the family look for him.
Conor said that night, he learned that Marcos still had not returned home. He said he went back to the bridge and found Marcos deceased. He claimed he rolled Marcos over and found a syringe in his arm. He also claimed that Marcos smelled dead, his face was purple and his body was cool to the touch. He said he checked for a pulse and was unable to find any.
Conor said he did not want Marcos’ family to know that he had died as a result of overdosing on drugs, so he decided to destroy the evidence. He said he stole a can of gasoline from a neighboring residence, poured the gasoline around the body and lit it on fire. He said he then threw the gasoline can on the body, which caused a large explosion.
On July 10th, investigators returned to the scene of the fire to examine materials left behind. Investigators say they located the remains of a blanket with a bottle of personal lubricant melted to it. Officials say that the bottle matched the description of the bottle previously described in an interview with Dayton.
Later that day, investigators spoke with Dr. Lewman with the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office concerning the statements made by Dayton during the polygraph. Dr. Lewman, according to court documents, said that the story “sounded fishy” but that it was plausible. “He said the smoke damage in the airway is consistent with smoke inhalation, which indicates a person is alive at the time of a fire. But the carbon monoxide levels were no higher than it would be with someone who smokes a cigarette. He said this would indicate the person was deceased at the time of the fire.”
Dr. Lewman told investigators that “it is possible that Marcos was murdered before the fire was started, but the body was so badly damaged by the fire, that he was unable to make that determination.” By 6 pm that day, officials had charged Dayton with one count each of abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.
Conor Michael Dayton, 24-years-old, is a longtime resident of Milton-Freewater. We interviewed a number of individuals with close ties to Dayton including family friends, former co-workers & classmates, previous partners and close personal friends. They all consistently tell us that Dayton was frequently abused physically, emotionally and sexually as a child; especially from Dayton’s father.
One family friend, who asked to be unnamed in our story for privacy concerns, told us that on one occasion Dayton had enough of his father’s abuse and fought back. “Dayton struck his father back and ran from home, in the middle of winter, barefoot,” the source told our team. She went on to tell us that Dayton was forced to “spend many days sleeping on a boat in his parent’s driveway.” Once he was caught sneaking into a bedroom window of the house to get a blanket. His father then, allegedly, physically punished him again.
Dayton is said to have left his parents home around the age of 16. Sources say he lived briefly with Lonnie Gleim in Walla Walla. Gleim was sentenced to prison in 2014 for possessing hundreds of images of child pornography. While no known charges were ever brought in connection with Dayton’s time there, one close friend said she suspected that Gleim took advantage of Dayton.
Jeremy Kraft, a family friend, says that he has known Dayton since he was 10-years-old. Kraft, who was friends with Dayton’s parents, say that he was not aware of abuse until after Dayton and his siblings had moved away from home. He described Dayton as “a smart, sweet, polite kid” when he first moved Dayton into his home five years ago.
Kraft says that during the five years that he opened his home to Dayton, he left for brief periods at least four times. “Conor only lived with me when he had nowhere else to go,” Kraft told us. Kraft says that Dayton left those four times “mostly from me telling him to get a job and pay rent, so he’d just find someone else to mooch off of.”
One of those times, according to a friend, was when he lived with Gutierrez. Dayton and Gutierrez had previously worked together at Dairy Queen and at this time Dayton was working with Gutierrez’s mom “in the fields.” The friend says that Dayton told her that Gutierrez’s mother had kicked him out after she discovered Gutierrez and Dayton were having a sexual relationship in her home.
More recently, Kraft and Dayton had dated for a short period of time. Kraft says he spent the last few months trying to get rid of Dayton. Kraft says that Guiterrez and Dayton were always together. “Marcos [Gutierrez] was obsessed with him (Dayton),” Kraft told us in an interview. “Conor [Dayton] would go play Smash Bros with him often.” He frequently would find the two hanging out in a camper that Dayton stayed in on Kraft’s property.
It was that camper, Kraft says, where he last saw Gutierrez. “I made the mistake of telling Marcos [Gutierrez]’s brother that he and I did not get along, the night before his body was found, when they came by looking for him,” Kraft explained. “I told them the last time I had seen him, was a week prior when I found him in my camper and told him to stay the hell off of my property.”
According to Kraft, he had banned Gutierrez from his property after Gutierrez asked Kraft if he could find him some roofies. Roofies is a street name used to describe Flunitrazepam, also known as “the date rape drug.” Kraft says that Gutierrez promised, “to share some cute boy that worked at Dairy Queen.” Kraft says he totally shot down the alleged notion, saying he did not know where to find such drugs and would not want to even if he did.
Later, when Kraft and Dayton started dating, Kraft says Gutierrez asked for him to send nude photos of Dayton. It was then, Kraft said, that he decided to ask Gutierrez to stay away. Because of his work schedule, Kraft suggested that Gutierrez frequently would visit Dayton at the property while he was gone to work. Kraft accused Dayton of becoming a habitual liar to cover up.
One individual who identified himself as a “close friend of Dayton and Guiterrez” say the two experimented with Ketamine, which is classified as a dissociative anesthetic, and other psychedelics such as LSD and mushrooms. Kraft says that Dayton admitted to him once, to selling methamphetamine, to Gutierrez. Kraft said he believed Dayton frequently lied to him after that because Dayton knew that Kraft would not tolerate that behavior.
Trevor Moon, owner of the Dairy Queen in Milton-Freewater where Gutierrez was an employee and a close friend told KAPP-KVEW News that allegations of drug use simply do not add up. “Most people who have known him (Gutierrez) personally, have not known him to use methamphetamines,” Moon told KAPP-KVEW in an on-air interview.
Rumors have circulated on social media calling Kraft real the predator. “Jeremy was obsessed with Conor and bragged about him like a trophy,” one source told us. “Jeremy was more than upset when he found out that Conor had left to move in with Marcos,” the source added. “Jeremy had control over Conor’s mind and could get him to do anything.”
Kraft denies these claims, calling them “serious allegations.” “I couldn’t imagine doing any of the lies being spread, and it hurts that people might think this,” Kraft told us. He spoke with us on the record because he wanted to address the allegations and provide his perspective as someone previously connected with Dayton.
We asked Kraft if he was with Dayton the night of Gutierrez’s death. He said he, Dayton and a mutual friend were at his house “watching movies, listening to music and drinking vodka.” He last remembered seeing Dayton, “around midnight” before he fell asleep for work early the next morning. Kraft says law enforcement officials questioned him only once, for about an hour and a half, the evening after Gutierrez’s body was found.
Kraft responded to the latest developments in the case by saying that Dayton is not telling the truth. “That’s what he said. It’s not true though. The truth is going to come out very soon,” he added.
In a news release, on July 12th, officials say that they are continuing their investigation and will provide additional details at a later time.
This is a developing story. We will continue to monitor additional developments and bring those to you once we have them available. This story has been updated to include details obtained by court documents and for clarification.
Information of Felony:
Court Appointed Counsel Order:
Probable Cause Affidavit:
Alan is a disabled veteran of the US Air Force and is a native of Long Beach, California. He has explored food and the culinary arts around the globe, including an extensive stay in Okinawa, Japan, South Korea and Mexico. He is the Executive Editor of Munchy, our digital channel for food at Rise Media. Alan also manages our social media team, including training and recruitment. In November 2017, Alan’s ingenuity resulted in the launch of Walla Walla Valley Heroes, a monthly program that recognizes those who give back to our community. Alan currently lives in Milton-Freewater with his dachshund, Ellie Mae.