Couple’s dispute ends with slaying

History of domestic violence preceded shooting death

LEXINGTON, N.C. — A history of domestic violence ended tragically for a lesbian couple on Sept. 1.

Tammy Starlette Miller West, 44, of 367 Avenue K in Southmont, was charged Sept. 2 with murder. She is accused in the shooting death of her girlfriend, Samantha Leath Gutierrez, 35. The couple had lived together for about a year.

According to The Winston-Salem Journal and The (Lexington, N.C.) Dispatch, Davidson County Sheriff’s Deputies found Gutierrez dead in the couple’s kitchen when they responded to a 911 call West made around 5 p.m. Gutierrez had several gunshot wounds and a .22 caliber rifle was found in the room.

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In January, West was charged with misdemeanor simple assault and communicating threats. She was also accused of threatening to shoot Gutierrez. The charges were dropped when Gutierrez failed to appear in court proceedings. She also never filed for a restraining order against West.

The victim’s body was sent to the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill for an autopsy. The medical examiner’s initial conclusion was that Gutierrez died from the gunshot wounds.

Davidson County Sheriff David Grice told Q-Notes that his department is taking the case seriously and treating the homicide no differently than any other. He also said his department treats all domestic violence cases equally, whether gay or straight.

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The Dispatch has covered the case as a shooting between “roommates.”

The home West and Gutierrez shared was owned by the former. West’s daughter is now staying in the house, Darryl Windsor, Gutierrez’s brother-in-law, told Q-Notes. He and his wife, Marie, have custody of Gutierrez’s 13-year-old daughter.

Windsor said the family was having a difficult time securing Gutierrez’s personal property from the house. He added that the family was considering filing a wrongful death suit against West.

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