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Mon, Oct. 21

Man sentenced to 18 years in sex assault, kidnapping case

PRESCOTT - Steven Foster Gunter was sentenced to 18 years in prison Monday, after pleading "no contest" to charges that he committed crimes that he now claims he can't remember.

Gunter, 53, was arrested on Oct. 23 after police said he broke into the Prescott Valley home of his estranged wife, who had an order of protection against him. Police said that while she was out, Gunter got into her house and waited for her to return. When she did, he "grabbed" her, according to the police report, and said he wanted to talk. She tried to escape, but Gunter struck her in the face, knocked her down, dragged her by the hair into a bedroom, tied her hands behind her back, and sexually assaulted her, according to police.

She tried to get away again, running to the front door, but he once again grabbed her and threw her to the floor. Gunter then took her to her own car, and, with her bound and gagged, drove her to an ATM where he forced her to give up her access code so he could withdraw money, police said.

Gunter drove her to an isolated area where he once again sexually assaulted her, then drove her to Mayer, where they stopped at a convenience store and she convinced him to let her go, police said. The incident spanned about six hours.

A police officer saw Gunter driving on Highway 69 near Fain Road and tried to stop him, but he accelerated to speeds near 100 mph and crashed at Fain and Lakeshore Drive.

Gunter was seriously injured in the crash and spent several weeks in the hospital.

His attorney, Robert Gundacker, said the crash caused Gunter to develop serious cognitive difficulties and memory loss.

In that case, he faced a sex assault charge, plus kidnapping, credit card theft, flight from law enforcement, endangerment, and criminal damage.

Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Steve Sisneros called him a "one-man crime spree," noting that he was already on probation in another case.

"Mr. Gunter could have stopped at any time, could have said, 'this has gone far enough.'"

Gundacker contended that the pursuit was actually a suicide attempt.

Gunther read a statement to Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley: "I am sorry. I have total remorse for all the sadness caused to (the victim). I am so sorry." He talked about his prior commitment to his church and about missionary work he'd done.

"My memory fails me more than it should. Where I am now and what I did to get here, I have a hard time admitting," he said.

"I hope to be used by God in any way possible" in the future, Gunther concluded.

"Mr. Gunther, I do hope that you are able to start fresh when you are released from (prison)," Ainley told him.

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