The Good Samaritan

Michael Rutkowski, 44,  and his wife were driving down the road when they saw a dispute in progress between a man and a pregnant woman. Being the type of man he was, he stopped to help.

From what is now known, Christopher Branch, 23, is alleged to have beaten up his pregnant girlfriend and she tried to flee him. Branch reportedly got into a vehicle and chased after her. When he found her he allegedly ran over her with the vehicle he was driving.  Passers by, including two truck drivers and Michael Rutkowski stopped to help the girl.

The girl reportedly fled away from the vehicle and Branch allegedly tried to hit her with the vehicle again- but instead struck Michael Rutkowski.

Michael Rutkowski was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

According to reports the girlfriend was taken to the hospital, but she and the baby will recover.

Christopher Branch has been charged with murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, 2 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault on a family member. Reportedly he told officers that he had been drinking all day.

According to reports Branch does have a criminal history of robbery, driving while intoxicated and yes of assault against a household member.

It happens. You are driving down the road and you see a violent domestic incident in progress along the side of the road or in a neighboring car. Or you are in an apartment and you hear it happening or hear it from your neighbor’s home. Your first priority is to make sure that police are called. Even police officers are trained to make it their first priority to call for backup.

For some, you can distract them by making them aware that others are present and by engaging them in a conversation- hopefully delaying any more violence until police arrive to handle the situation. Do not attempt to corner an enraged person, give them the opportunity to flee.

For some they will not be distracted, and will turn their attack against anyone who will attempt to come between them and the target of their rage. I suspect that was the case here. If you feel you must intervene, remember to try to protect yourself. It is not true that in a domestic incident that they will only attack their spouse or girlfriend or that they will not attack a man.


A marriage license signed by both Christopher Branch and Contessa Salazer has been submitted to the Clerk’s office.

However, the judge has said that is not going to happen. There is a court order that Branch not have contact with witnesses to the crime or with his victim’s.

Family has theorized that the attempt to marry may have been an attempt to prevent Salazar from having to testify against Branch.                  



  1. Dalia Diaz said,

    May 7, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    I think you have it wrong. Michael was not struck in lieu of the woman. Christopher Branch knew exactly what he was doing when he accelerated to 50 miles per hour to hit Michael. I know these facts because I am part of his family. We were informed by the authorities and the people involved. Please retract from saying he got in the way because that is diminishing his selfless act. He saw her getting ran over.. over.. with a TRUCK. Who would stop? Probably not me.. I am not that good of a person. But Michael was. He didn’t think, he acted. It is in these small details that make people HEROES. He wasn’t successful at tending out a helping hand and living…But he was successful in helping save the woman and her child from getting hit.

    I appreciate the nice comments on Michael..

  2. May 9, 2007 at 6:10 am

    Dalia, his was a very heroic, selfless act no matter whether the man struck him accidently or on purpose. He saw a stranger being harmed and he stopped to help without regard to himself or his own safety. Nothing can detract from that.

  3. Brenda said,

    May 9, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Basically in the small rural area I am from WE were taught from childhood to ignore domestics as it was “nobody’s business what a man and woman do”. my fathers’ words, who never ever hit my Mom, by the way.” I am 59 years old though – so it was some time ago anyway = ” I would be outside and go running to Dad when I’d hear the lady next door screaming for help and though my Dad “helped everybody in other ways” – he would not address that situation. Sadly it was just considered a normal thing between two consenting?? adults.

    Michael was very brave and acted very heroic in such a dangerous situation where the abuser had control of a car. I’m sure he thought the man would not run over him but he did. The best course is to call the police and people in my area (me also) have concerns about that for those police calls go out public over various scanners and the abuser likely will find out “who caused him/her to go to jail”

    I have intervened in a few domestics over the years and found that usually “both parties” would turn on me but wouldn’t anyone intervene if they saw a child or an elderly person being abused – well domestic abuse of the wife/husband is the absolute same thing – one of them feels helpless !!!

    I do agree it advisable to give the abuser or victim room for “flight instead of “fight if it is possible. Sometimes if the abuser just knows what he/she is doing is being made public they stop and sometimes not. One never knows as every situation is different.

    I am so sorry for Michael’s family and the sad thing is the lady that he saved may forgive her man and even go back to him. It happens – as it sometimes takes a while to get out of a bad relationship until suddenly it hits a person to think “what the heck am I doing taking this – IT’S OVER”..

  4. Jackie said,

    May 10, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Brenda, – In this case, we should expect the man to go to jail for some time. He deliberately killed someone using a car, after all. Which gives the woman and her child a chance to escape his direct influence, even if she were inclined to forgive him…..

  5. Brenda said,

    May 11, 2007 at 3:44 am


    Of course it would be expected he’d go to prison – but sometimes there is parole possibilities.

    But you are correct – it would definitely give the woman and her child a chance for a new life. God bless them.

  6. Michelle Peterson said,

    May 13, 2007 at 8:28 am

    My husband Brian was the first truck driver to see the pregnant girlfriend on the side of the road. He called out on his radio to his coworker, driving the next truck behind him. Brian and Ronnie both left skid marks on the highway trying to stop their trucks close to her. She was able to run to Ronnie’s truck just in time. Brian got out of his truck and remembered his phone was on the charger. He got back in and called 911. As Brian was running to Ronnie’s truck he saw Branch’s truck coming toward Michael, striking him and tossing him in the ditch. Brian then saw Arceli getting out of her SUV to go to Michael. Brian grabbed her and pushed her back in the SUV and as he got in behind her felt the wind off of Branch’s truck making a pass at them. In my view Branch was just trying to get rid of wittnesses! He has even gone as far as getting a marriage license signed by him and the girl he ran over on May 3, 2007. Am I missing something??? Branch is not to have contact with victim’s or witnesses! Did the girlfriend come up with this plan on her own? The system is failing all of us agin, if they have been allowed to communicate.
    Meanwhile my husband has been taken off of work, by his Doctor, for post tramatic stress. (And fighting his employer for assistance as they do not think this qualifies as work comp.) He just can’t face getting back behind the wheel of his truck not knowing what he will be faced with “over the next hill”. He saw something that he just can not understand and can not get the images out of his head. I have been a stay at home Mom since Brian began truck driving. He is gone 5-6 days a week and we feel someone must be available for the children. Now we are struggling to pay our bills and put food on the table.
    I do not want to sound like I am whinning as each day I praise God for giving me and my children one more day with Brian. Saddly something Michael’s family did not get. I’d just like to know who is going to be held accountable for allowing Branch to wander our community….knowing good and well of his violent nature.

  7. May 13, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    I read about your husband and the other truck driver and their heroic actions that day. They also took the risks and helped to save the woman and her baby. I am sorry for the problems that your husband is having with it. Hopefully, someday soon your husband will be able to deal with the memories of that day and will understand they did something great- they saved a life.

    Unfortunately it isn’t uncommon for the parties of a domestic violence incident to make up. The aggressive party will use a number of tactics- placing guilt on the victim, apologing, threats, claiming illness or drunkeness to excuse their actions. Plus if they are married, as his wife they may not be able to force her to testify against him.
    If your information is credible, you may want to give the prosecutor a call.

  8. Judith Herrera said,

    May 18, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    Michael Rutkowski was a HERO!
    He DID NOT try to corner an enraged CRIMINAL! You make it sound as if it was Michael’s fault. When did the rules change and now a victim is at fault. I hope you are never in need of help from a stranger. As that stranger might not want to help you becuase he/she might endanger his/her life trying to corner an enraged criminal as you state in your article.
    He merely tried to help someone in need. Christopher Branch knew fully well what he was doing. Please stop making excuses for this criminal. No excuse is acceptable for his widow or family.
    Also, the authorities are at fault. How can a person with such record be allowed to walk the streets? How can Christopher Branch and Contessa Salazar be allowed to have sexual relations at the jail?
    It is truly ridiculous and disgusting!
    Is this the way Governor, Bill Richardson, intends to run the country should he become president?

  9. May 18, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Judith Herrera, I agree that what Michael Rutkowski did was heroic. And there is no attempt to “blame the victim.” There is one person at fault here and that was Christopher Branch.
    I think you are possibly referring to comments in the post after the news articles. Those are general comments not about this situation, but about possible future situations. Trying to corner or hold a violent person is dangerous for the person trying to do so. But I don’t believe- nor did I mean to imply that is what happened in Michael Rutkowski’s case.

  10. Michael Rutkowski III said,

    November 6, 2007 at 7:37 am

    Too all of you that read this must have some sense of how dredfull this would be if this had happened to you…. right. We all are comfortable in our little homes were the news papers and television have a distance from the our world and the world around us. But let me be the first to pop that small fuckin bubble and tell you that evil people do exist. maybe they are products of their environment or maybe they were just never given an oppertunity to succed like others or maybe just maybe they leech off the goodness of human beings in order to create a small margin of accomplishment (in thier delusional minds) Evil people do exist; and their actions are thier own weither it’s under the influence of a narcortics or alcohol or whatever. Now for those of you who think that Chris Branch was cornered and his only way out was through my father then let me be the first in labeling you as the fuckin problem. Murder is murder, now there are grey areas but not in this case. My father was never brought to a hospital I sat in a parked ambulence for two hours examining his cold motionless body, comming to terms with this world and the next. There is nothing that can give me back what was so carlessly stolen for so many people that i love. So do me a favor: if you do care; truly. The next time you see something you know to be wrong, immoral or just evil: instead of bloging and gossipin about how awful it is stand up on your your own Goddamn feet and do the right thing. We want change for the better but very few are willing to stand up and make a differance. Its sick, pathetic and I blame everyone that does nothing when there is something that needs to be done. Now you might think i have a bias towords this issue (which I guess I do) but if there is anyone who thinks that Branch was cornered and that we was just tryin to get away, suffer like i was suffered, like my brothers have suffered like my gradmother suffers like my stepmother suffers and then tell me that there was justification in Branch’s actions. You can’t….. Branch’s family can’t. They just keep there heads low because they know there son fucked up. And well here i still am twenty years old, without a father, without one of my dear friends, hearing bullshit on meaningless blogs and that truly wont effect any one else until another “Christopher Branch” comes brutally murders someone that is close to your heart. And then you can see those physicall effects that they’ve done to that loved one and then you can spend your nights wishing maybe just maybe you could have just ten minutes with that murderer in a small room, with no windows; you tell me what would be the first thing you would do. Let me tell you it wouldnt be forgiveness, that doent happen till later, till after you’ve realized and witnessed that justice has been served. So go live you life and be aware that there is alot of evilness that lives all around us, but when you become that evilness there’s no one to blame but yourself because you allowed it to dwell there and overcome your soul. I truly hope that Branch suffers (and other people like him) in every breath they take, the same way i do when I do something exciting and say to myself, “I cant wait to tell dad about this….. oh wait.”

  11. November 6, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Michael Rutkowski III, I am very sorry about your Dad. And I am sorry about your families loss and grief also.
    I agree, what happened to him has no justification. He was trying to help someone, and paid for that with his life. I believe he was a very brave man, more courageous than most. It is rare for someone to step forward and try to protect a stranger- but your father was above the rest, because he did so. Because of the type of man he was, that makes him very special, and we need more men like him in this world. And I know that also makes it even harder to lose him.
    Yes, he did do it the right way. And I wish more would do what he did.
    But not everyone will know how to do it like he did. Not everyone will know not to try to corner the person, not to try to hold them for police. And what was written at the bottom was merely my attempt to make people to think of things like that. I am sorry if you didn’t understand that.
    Yes, there is evilness in the world. And too many times it is the innocents that do suffer. Innocents like your father and your family. Branch will go to trial, and justice will be served. But justice is a word, and you will still have to live with your pain. For that I am so very sorry.
    For Branch, whatever life he may have left, I do hope that he will spend in prison where he can no longer harm anyone else.

  12. matthews said,

    June 6, 2010 at 12:08 am

    You people are a bunch of idiots! Branch was crying for a cry of help with a messed up family background. He was a moron who was high on drugs and drunk and dealing with a drug addict girlfriend who was in and out jail herself. If I saw an incident like this occurring, I wouldn’t have gotten out of my vehicle to save the person. What idiot runs into a moving vehicle with a rate of speed of 45mph! Ridiculous!!!!!!

    calling 9-11 is the best thing to do but then again leave it to the rio arriba sheriffs department to be worthless along with the NM police department! Chris Branch should have never been sentenced to life for this incident. If anything Contessa Salazar should have been charged to. After all it is her fault for the cause of the drama and death of Michael Rutowski!

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