The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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Gallego, Gerald Armand, Jr.
Gerald Gallego never met his father, but he had the old man's temper, all the same. Gerald, Sr., was serving time in San Quentin when his son was born, in 1946, and nine years later he became the first man to die in Mississippi's gas chamber, condemned for the murder of two police officers. Gerald, Jr., didn't know the difference, accepting his mother's fiction of an accidental death, but he would start to log his own arrests before the year was out. Minor scrapes climaxed with his incarceration, at age 13, for having sex with a six-year-old neighbor girl. By age 32, he had been married seven times -- twice to the same woman -- with several bigamous unions along the way. Outstanding warrants called for his arrest on charges that included incest, rape , and sodomy.
Gallego's latest wife, Charlene, would stand in striking contrast to her husband. A Sacramento native and the product of a solid, caring home, she somehow fell head-over-heels in love with Gerald, learning to accept his quirks and falling into line with fantasies that called for him to build a secret hideaway where hostage "sex slaves" would be kept to do his bidding.
On September 11, 1978, 17-year-old Rhonda Scheffler and a friend, 16-year-old Kippi Vaught, disappeared from Sacramento, on the short walk to a local shopping center. Two days passed before their ravaged, battered bodies were recovered outside Baxter, 15 miles away. Both girls had been molested, bound and beaten with a tire iron, after which a single bullet had been fired through each one's skull.
On June 24, 1979, 14-year-old Brenda Judd and 13-year-old Sandra Colley vanished from the Washoe County fairgrounds, in Reno, Nevada. Neither girl was seen again, and both were listed as runaways until 1982, when Charlene Gallego's confession linked her husband with their abduction and murder.
Ten months later, on April 24, 1980, Karen Chipman and Stacey Redican disappeared from a Reno shopping mall, their remains discovered near Lovelock, Nevada, on July 27. Both girls had been sexually abused, then beaten to death with a blunt instrument.
Linda Aguilar, age 21, was four months pregnant when she disappeared from Port Orford, Oregon, on June 8, 1980. Relatives reported her missing on June 20, and her body was found two days later, in a shallow grave located south of Gold Beach. The victim's skull was shattered, her wrists and ankles bound with nylon cord, but an autopsy revealed sand in her nose, mouth, and throat, indicating that she was buried alive .
On July 17, 1980, 34-year-old Virginia Mochel was abducted from the parking lot of a West Sacramento tavern, where she worked as a barmaid. Her skeletal remains, still bound with nylon fishing line, were found outside of Clarksburg, California, on October 30. In the absence of other evidence , loops of cord around the neck were seen as proof of death by strangulation.
Craig Miller, 22, left a Sacramento fraternity dance with his date, 21-year-old Beth Sowers, around 1:30 a.m. on November 2, 1980. Moments later, friends observed them seated in a car outside, a rough-looking stranger sitting up front, on the passenger's side. One of Craig's friends was sliding behind the wheel, to make small talk, when Charlene Gallego appeared, slapping his face as she ordered him out of the car and sped away. Miller's frat brothers memorized the license plate, telling their story to police when Miller was found dead the next day, near Bass Lake. (Beth Sowers would not be found until November 22, shot three times and dumped in a Placer County ditch.)
Officers traced the vehicle to Charlene's parents, recording her flat denial of the incident. She also gave her name as "Mrs. Stephen Styles," a false identity Gallego had secured by stealing a policeman's I.D. card, using the vital information to request a "duplicate" birth certificate and driver's license for himself. Identified by Charlene's parents, Gallego skipped town with his wife, using Charlene to phone home for money on November 3. The next call came from Omaha, two weeks later, and federal agents were waiting when the suspects called for their money at Western Union, on November 17.
The killer team of man and wife hung tough for 18 months, but Charlene gave it up in mid-1982, turning state's evidence in return for a maximum sentence of sixteen and a half years in prison. Gallego's four-month trial in Sacramento, on charges of murdering Miller and Sowers, ended with his conviction and sentence of death in April 1983. Transferred to Nevada for trial in the Chipman and Redican murders, Gallego became the target of an unprecedented public subscription campaign, with California residents donating $23,000 to help defray the cost of his prosecution. Convicted on two more counts of murder, plus two of kidnapping, Gallego was sentenced to death a second time. At this writing, he awaits execution in Nevada.
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