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UPDATED: Missoula man found guilty in girlfriend's death

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Emmanuel Gomez stands between his attorneys Lisa Kauffman and Brian Smith  Monday afternoon in Missoula County District Court while the verdict is read proclaiming him guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Charlie Ann Wyrick, in December 2015.

Justice for Charlie Ann Wyrick came in many forms.

It came from Missoula police detective Stacy Lear, who put together the case that led to the arrest of Wyrick's abusive boyfriend, Emmanuel Gomez.

It came from Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst and Senior Deputy County Attorney Jordan Kilby, who over his eight-day trial walked through the testimony and evidence that showed Gomez stabbed Wyrick in the chest and dumped her body in a Deer Creek ravine in December 2015.

And justice came Monday from the six men and six women of Gomez’s jury who found him guilty of deliberate homicide.

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Crystal Wyrick, mother of Charlie Ann Wyrick, hugs Missoula Police Detective Stacy Lear after the verdict is read.

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Wyrick told friends and coworkers, family and doctors that Gomez abused her. The people who worked with her at Pattee Creek Market testified that the 26-year-old told them Gomez threatened to kill her if she tried to leave him. That he used to drive Wyrick up into the Pattee Canyon area showing her the overlooks and ditches he could use to dispose of her body.

On Dec. 27, 2015, search teams found Wyrick’s body at the base of a ravine in the area, right where friends had desperately told police to look after she went missing.

Prosecutors charged Gomez with deliberate homicide, believing that he killed Wyrick after an argument at their home on Dec. 21. Roommates testified during the trial they were awoken that morning by yelling, then heard a thump and a scream, and came upstairs to see Gomez get in his SUV and drive quickly away from the house.

On Monday, the jury also found Gomez guilty of misdemeanor partner or family member assault for repeatedly attacking Wyrick over the course of their 2015 relationship. Gomez stood, thumbs tucked in his pockets, showing little reaction as the verdict was read.

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Wyrick’s death left behind her 6-year old son, who lives in Helena with his father. During the 2½ hours that the jury deliberated, other members of her family waited in the hallway outside the Missoula courtroom. Her mother Crystal Wyrick said when District Court Judge Karen Townsend came down the stairs and told her a verdict was in, she started to shake.

The shaking didn’t stop until the guilty verdict was read and Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst walked over and hugged Crystal, followed by hugs from senior deputy county attorney Jordan Kilby and detective Stacy Lear.

“I’m just so relieved they found him guilty. I saw no reason why they wouldn’t,” Crystal said.

Townsend hasn’t set a sentencing date for Gomez, but it likely won’t be until the spring. He faces the possibility of life in prison. Crystal Wyrick said she’ll be back at the sentencing hearing to tell the judge things about her daughter only a mother could know.

“I want her to really know about Charlie’s life outside of all this trauma,” she said. “I want her to know how alive she was. She was a great mother, she was a great sister. She was the best daughter anyone could have.”

During her closing argument Kilby went back over the evidence and testimony the jury had heard over the trial, including reminding them that Wyrick’s blood was found in Gomez’s vehicle and home. That GPS data from his cell phone showed he went to Pattee Canyon the morning after the fight, and store receipts and surveillance footage showed him buying cleaning supplies the next day.

“He dumped her body in Pattee Canyon just as she said he would, and that’s where we found her,” Kilby said.

Pabst told the jury Wyrick’s behavior of breaking away from Gomez only to get back together with him was that of a “classic domestic abuse victim.”

“That may be what ultimately killed Charlie, the decision to continually allow him back into her life,” Pabst said. “Convict him because he’s guilty. Don’t feel sorry for anyone, look at the facts.”

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.