Sandra Galas case, memory live on

LIHU‘E — It’s been more than four years since she was found murdered, but for the father of victim Sandra “Sandy” Mendonca Galas, the story of his daughter is very much alive.

Galas was found murdered in her car in ‘Ele‘ele on Jan. 25, 2006.

According to her death certificate, she died by strangulation with a cord-like object and blunt-force trauma to the head.

She was 27 years old.

The high-profile, unsolved murder case of the gorgeous, talented young mother of two quickly gained national media attention following her death, but also shed light on part of a dark reality for many on this island: violence against women.

Unfortunately for the children of Galas, then ages 3 and 7, that reality means they will grow up without knowing their mother.

With Galas’ killer still at large, her father, Lawrence Mendonca, has worked tirelessly to help ensure that person is put behind bars and that his daughter’s memory receives justice.

When asked how he finds the strength to diligently keep the case going, Mendonca said, “I don’t feel I’m strong,” adding, “I’m doing something I have to do.”

In addition to keeping the case alive, Mendonca has worked to help put an end to violence against women island-wide by founding the “Never Forget Sandy G Golf Tournament,” which benefits the programs of the YWCA of Kaua‘i that work to end violence against women and children. This year’s tournament will begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at the Kaua‘i Lagoons Golf Club.

Last year’s tournament raised more than $10,000 for the Kaua‘i YWCA, which went toward programs that help assist victims of violence through their recovery and healing.

“We’re doing this in memory of Sandy, but we don’t have to think too far back to think of other women who’ve been murdered as well,” YWCA Executive Director Renae Hamilton said. “Violence happens on a daily basis — and whether it is the super tragedy of losing a life or of people who are simply not safe in their homes — it’s definitely an issue that’s impacting our community’s safety.”

Hamilton added that it’s not just physical safety “but emotional safety as well.”

For many victims of abuse, the truth can be difficult to hear, she said.

“When we try and pay attention to that voice inside — and even hearing comments from those who know us best, family, friends who care and have someone’s best interest at heart — take an extra minute pay attention. … It can be really difficult to hear and acknowledge. But that’s the first step.”

A next step can be utilizing any of a number of resources, she said, to help identify what to do next.

“We have our website and a 24-hour crisis line which is anonymous,” she said. “You can call and ask questions: ‘Is this abuse?’ That kind of simple question we can help people sort through.”

Another element that can be additionally challenging for victims is when children are involved.

“I think we can all acknowledge when people leave situations it can be the most dangerous time,” Hamilton said. “At the same time there is no guarantee if you stay that (danger) won’t happen.”

To that end, there are other resources additionally in place “to hopefully help minimize number of tragedies like Sandy’s,” Hamilton added.

Despite the ups and downs of the case — which have ranged from exhausting leads to the case changing hands from prosecutors to new evidence surfacing — Mendonca has kept steadfast hope.

“Everyday we get closer. It’s just a matter of time now.”

• Amanda C. Gregg is a published author and freelance writer. While covering the crime beat for The Garden Island, she worked on the Sandra Mendonca Galas case extensively. She can be reached at agregg@civicmindedbylines.com.

Want to participate?

The Third Annual Never Forget Sandy G Golf Tournament will begin at7:30 a.m. Saturday at the Kaua‘i Lagoons Golf Club

Entry fee: $100 per player (Mulligans are three for $20)

Format: 3-person modified scramble

Maximum handicaps: men 26, women 36

For more information call the YWCA at 245-5959 ext. 225 or go towww.kauaiywca.org/

If you can help

The Mendonca family is offering a $20,000 reward to anyone withinformation that could lead to an arrest. If you have information,call the Kaua‘i Police Department at 241-1700.

If you or someone you know needs help

 The YWCA 24-Hour Crisis Line is 245-6362.

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