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cold case Arrest made in cold case murder of Sandra Galas

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Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2012 12:45 am

LIHU‘E — Nearly seven years after her murder, police have made an arrest in the cold case of Sandra Mendonca Galas.

On Friday, the Kaua‘i Police Department arrested 40-year-old Darren Galas, of Kalaheo, for the alleged murder of his estranged wife.

A KPD uniformed patrol team arrested Darren at approximately 4 p.m. Friday at the Koloa Big Save, according to Assistant Chief Roy Asher, who is also in charge of the Investigative Services Bureau.

Darren is charged with murder in the second-degree and his arraignment is scheduled for early this week. He is currently in custody at the KPD cell block and bail has been set at $1 million.

“I’m very confident in this case,” Asher said. “Obviously we are happy we can provide the family with a level of closure.”

A life cut short

On Jan. 25, 2006, 27-year-old Sandra was found dead in her car, which was parked inside the garage of her ‘Ele‘ele home. Her autopsy showed strangulation with a cord-like object and blunt-force trauma to the head as causes of death, as previously reported by The Garden Island.

She left behind two young children, who have remained in Darren’s custody since her murder, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Sandra married Darren in 1999, but she separated from her husband in April 2005. She filed for divorce in August 2005 and the two were involved in a legal battle over the custody of their children when she was killed.

TGI reported in 2006 that Sandra had been hit by her husband when they were married and a criminal count of family abuse was filed against Darren on Nov. 22, 2005. The count indicated abuse of multiple family members.

According to a 2006 KPD arrest log, Darren, then 34, was arrested in connection to the case for suspicion of second-degree murder on Jan. 26, 2006, but was released two days later.

“We are not ruling him out, we just need to proceed with our investigation,” then-Lt. Asher told TGI in January 2006.

Since 2006, the KPD has been following up on leads, submitting items for forensic testing and conducting witness interviews to gather the evidence needed to bring charges against Sandra’s killer, states a KPD news release.

New evidence

Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho said Friday’s arrest was a result of new evidence compiled in the last five months by Ke Ahi Pio’ole, Hawai‘i’s first prosecutor-directed cold case murder unit, made possible by nearly $100,000 in grant funding from the Attorney General’s Office.

The emotional impact of a case like this is enormous, said Iseri-Carvalho.

“It’s hard for anyone not to be discouraged by a lengthy investigation in such a tragic case, and some members of the public may have even lost hope that the case would ever be solved,” she said. “We’re all very happy to finally be at the point where the case can move forward and we can ensure that justice is served.”

Iseri-Carvalho added it was her understanding that Sandra’s parents are “extremely happy and relieved that the case is moving forward, however they are overwhelmed with emotion at the current time and are not available for comment.”

Phone calls by TGI to Sandra’s parents on Saturday were not immediately returned.

Since Sandra’s death, her father, Lawrence Mendonca, has fought hard to make sure her killer was found. His initial reward for information leading to the murderer’s arrest was bumped from $6,000 to $20,000. In addition, he worked to get national media attention from Dateline NBC, CBS News 48 Hours and America’s Most Wanted.

In 2007, Mendonca partnered with the YWCA of Kaua‘i to begin hosting the annual Never Forget Sandy G Golf Tournament. Money raised from the events are used to help abused women and children.

Executive Director of the YWCA of Kaua‘i Renae Hamilton knew Sandra personally and says she is happy to see the case moving forward.

“We’re very pleased for the family,” she said. “I think also that we have to keep in mind this is a step. As positive as this is, it also can bring up the grief and the loss at the same time.”

Hamilton believes Sandra’s story highlights the tragedy of women losing their lives to violence.

“She was such an amazing young woman, who had courage,” Hamilton said. “She was making changes in her life. We can draw from her strengths.”

Neighbors reaction

For neighbors who lived in the ‘Ele‘ele Nani housing complex where Sandra lived, they found Saturday’s news of Darren’s arrest both surprising and saddening.

One neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, said he along with other homeowners in the area were subpoenaed at the time of the murder. The neighbor said the news came as a sad surprise.

“I feel sorry for the kids,” he said. “If it’s him, then it’s sad for him, but justice is served.”

He didn’t know the couple that well, but did know Sandra’s grandmother, who owned the house at the time.

“She was a nice gal,” he said. “I spoke to her a few times, as well as (Darren).”

The neighbor said that he saw Sandra arrive home early the morning of the murder, and was surprised to walk out that evening around sundown to police lights.

He expressed some satisfaction for the parents and family of Sandra because he knew how hard they have worked to keep this case from going unsolved.

“I always wondered who it could be, and if he was the one,” he said. “I can’t imagine. For the family, after six years (and) never giving up, I am glad they are strong.”

As far as the neighbor knew, the couple bought the home from the grandmother, and it sat vacant for some time before Darren rented it out recently. Darren would come around to mow the lawn and cut the trees when it was not rented.

It’s nice to see that the forensic science works in the real world and not just on TV, he said.

Amor Sagucio, a neighbor about two doors down, said they didn’t know Sandy well but that he knew she worked at the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa and their children were near the same age. He expressed surprise to learn that her estranged husband was arrested for the murder.

“Are you serious?” he asked. “I knew Darren from when I worked at the gas station, so I am surprised that this happened after this long now.”

Over the years Sagucio said he wondered who killed Sandra, but said nobody seemed to know anything. He would see Darren around now and again, and everything was pretty friendly.

Mona Valdez, a neighbor across the street, said her mother lived there at the time, but she moved in after the murder. Valdez learned the story and said it was a frequent thought.

“Every time I pass by her house I think ‘Oh, did they ever catch the killer?’” she said.

“What has changed now that they were able to arrest a suspect when they couldn’t for so long?”

• Tom LaVenture contributed to this article.

© 2015 Thegardenisland.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • blt posted at 6:01 pm on Fri, Dec 21, 2012.

    blt Posts: 0

    It's a bit disturbing. Now that the hype has died down, Mr. Galas is out on "House Arrest" but drops his son off at school. He should not be enjoying this Christmas season after what he has put his children through.

  • Peace4Kaua'i posted at 3:47 pm on Sun, Nov 4, 2012.

    Peace4Kaua'i Posts: 53

    I must bring up that the Ymca has excellent advice & suggestions for woman going into separation process in which the husband is violent, tactics that can save her life. Get help!

  • brnnrzd posted at 7:43 pm on Mon, Oct 29, 2012.

    brnnrzd Posts: 232

    Knew these two when they first met. Know both families. Sad ending ....

  • dakine posted at 4:30 pm on Mon, Oct 29, 2012.

    dakine Posts: 611

    ...and, of course, Charley's reporting is unbiased... ;-)

  • pualoke posted at 3:17 pm on Mon, Oct 29, 2012.

    pualoke Posts: 0

    You should check out Charley Foster's reporting. The Supreme Court granted the OPA's petition to require the judge to hear the grand jury return.


  • dakine posted at 1:11 pm on Mon, Oct 29, 2012.

    dakine Posts: 611

    You should check Joan Conrow's reporting from this morning.


  • pualoke posted at 10:23 am on Mon, Oct 29, 2012.

    pualoke Posts: 0

    Flaggster, you are wrong. Kalamazoo is right. If Shay failed to convince the grand jury, then why did the prosecutor's office file a writ to make Judge Watanabe receive the grand jury return? I doubt they would do that if the grand jury wasn't convinced.

  • Kalamazoo posted at 8:14 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    Kalamazoo Posts: 0

    Dakine, you either don't know what happened or you are being disingenuous. The grand jury most definitely did NOT refuse to indict. In fact, Judge Watanebe refused to proceed and wants to postpone proceedings until January!

  • flaggster posted at 6:47 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    flaggster Posts: 224

    Steven - justice hasn't been done. KPD screwed up initially. Shay failed to convince a grand jury over two days. This is only a warrant. This IS political. What changed in October of 2012 a few days before the election? That's over 6 1/2 years AFTER the heinous crime. Try going back to caffeinated, Steven.

  • islandwide posted at 6:27 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    islandwide Posts: 187

    As it now stands ... who would be more qualified to do the prosecution in this cold case?
    Justin..... ??? or Shaylene..?? Sorry but Justin would be spinning in the dark! But Shaylene (OPA) has been working with the KPD for the length of the investigation .... they finally got enough evidence to convict ... GOOD JOB!! and let's get real!!

  • dakine posted at 2:46 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    dakine Posts: 611

    Again...this suspect was the No. 1 person of interest from the start. What wonder of forensics happened so suddenly? Those of us calling attention to the fishy timing are not politicizing the situation, but only pointing out that the OPA/KPD has chosen to make a move at an obviously politically opportune moment, when there seems to be no explanation other than that. Additionally, the Grand Jury refused to indict this suspect, even after convening for a highly unusual second daily session. This will put the case in a precarious position...but Shaylene wanted it to get charged NOW, and a warrant is easier to get than an indictment. That politically-motivated strategy may actually NOT help bring closure to the family, which they deserve. If they have such a "cold case unit" it needs a little tweaking, because there has not been a credible No. 1 POI in the Jackson case. The OPA made this political, not those of us who are pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.

  • outofhere posted at 1:54 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    outofhere Posts: 512

    Ruthann Jones

  • suzi posted at 1:45 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    suzi Posts: 1

    I'm sure everyone is thrilled that justice will finally be done and there will be some sense of closure for Sandy's family and friends. It would have been nice if it had happened sooner is all.

  • Kathmandude posted at 1:06 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    Kathmandude Posts: 103

    Uh, minion, I do believe you are now guilty of the exact same thing you wrote in to complain about.     -sm

  • superminion posted at 12:50 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    superminion Posts: 0

    It is so sad that people have to bring up politics when justice is finally being brought to Sandy. You should all be ashamed of yourselves! So what if its right before the election? There was finally enough evidence to be brought forward in this case, given new technology and the collaboration between KPD and the OPA. If you want to bring up politics, then you might as well bring up Kollar's inability to prosecute cases, let alone class C felonies. How do you think he would be able to successfully prosecute a murder nonetheless? Oh wait, he'll probably just hire special counsel... and waste more tax payer money because he can't do the job himself.

  • Lyle Bargamento posted at 12:47 pm on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    Lyle Bargamento Posts: 226


  • Kathmandude posted at 11:03 am on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    Kathmandude Posts: 103

    I don't think it is appropriate, Kalamazoo and Suzi, to be politicizing a family tragedy. It is a time to be thankful justice is finally being done.

    Steven McMacken


  • Richard Godbehere Jr posted at 11:01 am on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    Richard Godbehere Jr Posts: 1

    October Surprise...

    Wait and see what the White House comes out with!

  • JimPunkrockford posted at 11:00 am on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    JimPunkrockford Posts: 50

    I hate to sound like a cynic, but the timing is "interesting" to say the least. the prosecutor doesn't have enough evidence to bring charges for 6 years, then out of nowhere, 13 days before a contentious election there seems to be enough there to file charges?

    And let me say "good for you" to all of you "never forget" people. i thought you were wasting your time hoping that they would ever prosecute this crime, but you were right and your persistence made a difference. never forget sandy g

  • suzi posted at 10:37 am on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    suzi Posts: 1

    I find it hard to believe that this case is "suddenly solved" one week before Shaylene's bid for re-election. Really? They never suspected Sandy's abusive estranged husband with whom she was battling in court for child custody? It took seven years to figure this out? Really? It's a travesty that it took so long and highlights the unprofessional, amateurish manner in which the county prosecutor has executed her duties. Enough already!

  • islandwide posted at 10:19 am on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    islandwide Posts: 187

    Please give credit where its due and keep POLITICS out of this. We all should be thankful that the OPA and the KPD have come so far in this Cold Case. We can only hope the other Cold Cases can come to bear. We pray that this will come to a closure and the families can move on with and in their lives.

  • Kalamazoo posted at 8:45 am on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    Kalamazoo Posts: 0

    It is critical that we have experience in the office of the prosecutor. Shaylene formed this cold case unit, has a great working relationship with the police, and together the prosecutor and police cracked this case. She has never lost a jury trial. She has been a prosecutor for 12 years. Shaylene's opponent has never won a jury trial, and he has tried only two. He was a prosecutor for only 18 months. Shay's opponents tried to make it a political issue when she and her first deputy and two police detectives travelled to New York recently for a cold case seminar and networking junket, never admitting it was paid for by the grants Shay secured.

  • outofhere posted at 7:36 am on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    outofhere Posts: 512

    Now let's hope the Cold Case investigators will solve the Amber Jackson case....very disturbing that cases go so long unsolved on Kauai.

  • flaggster posted at 1:36 am on Sun, Oct 28, 2012.

    flaggster Posts: 224

    Finally. I hope the OPA under Justin is able to bring this case through to closure and give the family justice in a very trajic and undescribably sad set of circumstances. I feel very badly for the children but I think everyone needs closure; parents, friends, family, community. I truly hope politics weren't a part of the timing. It's already been over 6 1/2 years.


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