CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jenaro Torres was sentenced yesterday to life in prison with the possibility of parole in the death of Ruben Gallegos in 1992. Torres listened as Gallegos' sister, Blanca Gallegos, pleaded for the location of Gallegos' body. CLICK FOR LARGE
Ex-officer gets life in prison for '92 killing at Pearl
Victim's sister pleads for location of body
A former Department of Defense police officer convicted of killing a Pearl Harbor Base Exchange cashier 15 years ago was sentenced yesterday in state court to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
Circuit Judge Michael Town also ordered Jenaro Torres, 58, to serve a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison for using a firearm in the commission of the murder.
Ruben Gallegos, 19, who had $80,000 on him to cash sailors' paychecks, was last seen alive May 1, 1992, leaving his cashier's cage with Torres, who was off duty at the time.
A jury in March convicted Torres of second-degree murder. With valuable assistance from the Naval Criminal Investigative Services, Torres' case was the first successfully prosecuted by the state Attorney General's Cold Case Unit, established in February 2005.
BLANCA GALLEGOS says she forgives her brother's killer, but won't rest until she can bring her brother's remains -- never found -- home to El Paso, Texas.
At the sentencing yesterday in state Circuit Court for convicted murderer Jenaro Torres, Gallegos pleaded with him to reveal the location of her brother, Ruben.
"You want respect, earn it, tell us the truth. ... Be a man," she said to Torres, 58, a former Department of Defense police officer who was seen escorting her brother from the cashier's cage at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Exchange, where he was working early May 1, 1992 -- the day he was last seen alive. "Please, I beg of you, I forgive you, but please let us go on with our life -- give us back my brother."
Circuit Judge Michael Town sentenced Torres yesterday to the maximum of life imprisonment with parole, with a mandatory minimum of 15 years for using a firearm.
Torres, citing his pending appeal, continued to maintain his innocence. As a father and grandfather, he said, he sympathized with Gallegos and her family, but could not say anything about the offense.
"That's beyond my powers, and if I could, I would," Torres said. "I don't want to be thought of as an animal, which I'm not."
One day when the answers to many questions are revealed, "maybe you will understand where I stand in this situation," Torres said, noting that there's a lot of mystery surrounding the case.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
After yesterday's sentencing in Circuit Court of Jenaro Torres in the disappearance of Ruben Gallegos, the victim's sister Blanca pleaded with Torres to reveal the location of her brother's body. "Please, I beg of you, I forgive you, but please let us go on with our life -- give us back my brother," Gallegos said. Torres responded, "That's beyond my powers, and if I could, I would." CLICK FOR LARGE
FOR LACK OF A BODY, the initial case against Torres, in U.S. District Court, led to convictions on theft and firearms offenses. He was released after serving a two-year sentence.
Then, seven years after Gallegos' disappearance, naval criminal investigators tracked down a woman who had worked with Torres at a pharmaceutical company in California.
The co-worker, Susan Davis, said he had confessed to her over lunch one day that he had robbed a bank in Hawaii and had put an accomplice "out of commission" because he was backing out of the plan and was reaching for a gun.
Torres was subsequently indicted and arrested at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Davis, who gave compelling testimony at Torres' state trial in March, said she hadn't told anyone before because she was terrified of Torres, who had threatened to harm her and her family.
Torres' defense at trial was not only that he did not commit the murder, but that there was no body to prove there was any murder.
While Torres has the constitutional right to appeal his conviction, "he's no longer presumed innocent, because the jury found him guilty," Town said yesterday.
TOWN SAID he was struck yesterday -- the day after Memorial Day -- by the disparity between Torres' unblemished 22 years in the Army and Marine Corps, including stints in Vietnam and as a law enforcement officer at Pearl Harbor, and his "grievous and lethal conduct" in this case.
"The evidence this court heard before the jury has proven Mr. Torres committed the ultimate crime -- murder -- with no provocation other than the desire to profit from the robbery," Town said.
Blanca Gallegos said her brother's death has affected their entire family, especially her parents, who have suffered nervous breakdowns and depression. Her mother, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's, is extremely fragile and hasn't been told that someone has been found guilty of killing her third child.
Gallegos said she believes her brother wants to go home.
"Every time I come to the islands, I tell him, 'I'm back, Ruben -- just come show yourself, help me find you. I want to take you home.' But every time, I have to leave without him," Gallegos said, wiping away tears. "I hope one day I can come back to the island which I love and take him home."