GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Blanca Lerma, sister of Ruben Gallegos, wept yesterday as convicted killer Jenaro Torres appeared before the parole board at Halawa Prison. Torres was convicted in the murder of Gallegos, a Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Exchange cashier.
Family appeals for answers
A minimum of 15 years in prison for a former military officer convicted of killing her brother is "nothing" compared with the years her family has suffered, the victim's sister said.
"That's how long we had to suffer," said Blanca Lerma, elder sister of Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Exchange cashier Ruben Gallegos, who disappeared 15 years ago. "Fifteen years of not knowing where Ruben is, if he's out in the ocean somewhere, if he buried him. What did he do with him? We still don't have closure."
A Circuit Court judge sentenced Jenaro Torres, 58, to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole in May after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder earlier this year. The court imposed a 15-year mandatory minimum for Torres' use of a firearm.
Yesterday the state argued to the parole board that Torres should serve a minimum of 50 years for murdering Gallegos, whose body has yet to be recovered.
Court-appointed defense attorney Cynthia Kagiwada argued for the 15 years imposed by the trial court.
The parolling authority is expected to make a decision on Torres' minimum term within three weeks.
Gallegos was last seen alive in May 1992 being escorted from his cashier's cage by a uniformed Torres, who was on leave from work at the time.
"The evidence shows a lot of premeditation and planning," said Deputy Attorney General Susan Won, who prosecuted the case.
Torres lured out the 19-year-old on his first day in the cashier's cage. Gallegos had been entrusted with $80,000 to cash sailors' paychecks. Five hours later, Torres was stopped without Gallegos. In his trunk was all but $2,000 of the missing money, a stun gun and a bag containing Gallegos' wallet, ID cards and hairbrush. In the glove compartment was a .38-caliber revolver, which prosecutors said had been fired within the previous eight hours, and spent bullet shells.
Torres' defense at trial was that there was no murder.
Torres has filed an appeal of his conviction and noted he could not discuss his case until the appeal has been resolved. "I will take it upon myself at that time to do what is right," he said, but did not elaborate.
But he acknowledged Lerma's presence at the hearing and the suffering and hardship her family has experienced.
It was not what Lerma had hoped to hear.
"I was hoping he would say, 'I'll go ahead and give you the location (of Gallegos' body),'" she said. Instead, Torres' words to her meant he would reveal the location of her brother's body only if he was unsuccessful on appeal.