Authorities in Colorado are searching for a tae kwon do instructor convicted of sexually assaulting three young, female students after he failed to appear in court to hear the verdict in his case. The district attorney said the convict has a "black belt in cowardice."
Raul Gutierrez-Hernandez, 33, had been in court for the duration of his trial, even testifying, but he fled before the jury's verdict on Tuesday.
"He appeared visibly uncomfortable during his cross examination, squirming and looking sideways," the Arapahoe County Office of the District Attorney wrote in a statement. "When the jury returned to deliver their verdict they saw that his seat was empty."
Gutierrez-Hernandez was convicted of 12 counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. There were three female victims between the ages of 12 and 16, prosecutors said. The abuse took place between 2008 and 2011.
"This verdict is justice for these victims, who have waited over two years to hear the word 'guilty,'" prosecutors Cori Alcock and Amy Ferrin said in a statement. "We will do everything we can to ensure Mr. Gutierrez is apprehended and held accountable for his crimes."
"Known as 'Master Raul,' the students confided in him, took lessons in his dojo and [he] traveled with them to competitions statewide," the DA's office said.
"After sexually assaulting these girls in their formative years, and then forcing them to relive their victimization in front of a jury, Gutierrez runs away from the jury's verdict? His black belt in cowardice will look good with his prison overalls. Gutless," DA George Brauchler said in a statement.
Aurora police are searching for Gutierrez-Hernandez and have appealed to the public for help. They are asking that anyone who sees him to call authorities and not try to approach him.
"He's a fourth degree black belt so we don't want members of the public approaching him," DA spokeswoman Lisa Pinto told ABCNews.com. Gutierrez-Hernandez is a former Mexican National Tae kwon do Champion.