CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jenaro Torres, a former military policeman, is on trial for murder in the disappearance of a Pearl Harbor cashier whose body was never found. CLICK FOR LARGE
Base murder trial wraps up
Jurors begin deliberations in the unsolved 1995 disappearance and murder of 19-year-old Ruben Gallegos
Former Pearl Harbor Base police officer Jenaro Torres used "trickery and deceit" to rob a naive Navy Exchange cashier of $80,000 and kill him because he was the only witness, state attorneys say.
Circuit Court jurors in the Torres murder case heard closing arguments yesterday before beginning deliberations in the unsolved 1995 disappearance and murder of 19-year-old Ruben Gallegos.
Gallegos was last seen May 1, 1995, leaving his cashier cage at the beginning of his shift with Torres, carrying a money bag containing $80,000.
Torres was arrested five hours later entering the base. In his trunk were some of Gallegos' personal belongings, a stun gun and a trash bag containing all but $2,000 of the missing $80,000. Also in his glove compartment was a handgun that had been fired recently and spent bullet shells.
Deputy Attorney General Susan Won argued that Torres had the motive, the means and the opportunity to carry out the robbery.
Not only were bill collectors after him, but his family was after him about not helping to take care of his dying mother in California, Won said.
As a base police officer, Torres was familiar with the procedures cashiers took in handling the money they are entrusted with, and often escorted them to the cashier cage and back. He was also familiar with the Waipio Peninsula -- an isolated area he had patrolled in the past behind Waipahu High School -- the area where the government believes he got rid of Gallegos' body.
Torres was actually on leave pending his transfer to San Diego, where he was moving to be closer to his family, when he drove to the Navy Exchange on May 1, 1995 -- a military pay day -- in full uniform and carrying a loaded revolver, Won said.
He went to the extent of driving to the Navy Exchange with fake license plates attached to his car. A co-worker on his way to work early that afternoon spotted Torres at a Pearl City car wash with his car covered in dirt, she said.
The circumstantial evidence is corroborated by testimony given by a former co-worker who said Torres had admitted to her that he had robbed a bank in Hawaii and that he had taken a partner in the robbery "out of commission" when his partner decided to back out of the plan and began reaching for what Torres believed was a weapon.
Defense attorneys tried to discredit co-worker Susan Davis, saying that Torres was only trying to impress her. But why would he threaten to harm Davis and her family if she told anyone else what he had admitted if he were not telling the truth, Won argued.
Deputy public defender Ed Harada said the government had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gallegos is dead, and that Gallegos had left all his personal belongings and identification because he is hiding from the law under another identity.
Evidence that Gallegos is alive came from a woman who called Crime Stoppers saying she had spotted someone fitting Gallegos' description a few days after the robbery, Harada said. But FBI agents failed to follow up on the tip.
Investigators were so focused on Torres as a suspect that they failed to consider Gallegos as an accomplice in the robbery, Harada said.
There was also some evidence that Gallegos planned to leave the islands on May 4, but the investigators could not recall what the evidence was because a report could not be found.