LIHUE — A Kauai man pleaded no contest Monday to the reduced charge of assault in the first degree in the death of his wife 12 years ago.
Darren Galas, 46, was originally charged with one count of murder in the second degree.
The fight for justice in the slaying of Eleele woman Sandra Galas has been a long one, her father Larry Mendonca said.
“We’ve been trying to get this case through for 12 years,” he said.
“At her grave site, I made a vow that I wouldn’t end this until justice was served,” Mendoca said. “I told the prosecutors and the police I would be a thorn in their side, (until the case was solved and prosecuted).”
The maximum sentence Galas can receive for the plea is 10 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 30.
Sandra Galas was found dead in her car parked in the garage of her home on Jan. 25, 2006. The cause of death was strangulation with a cord-like object and blunt force trauma to the head, investigators said.
She was 27 years old at the time of her death, reports say, and the mother of two young children.
The Galas’ were married in 1999 and separated in 2005. Later in 2005, Sandra Galas asked for a divorce, according to reports. Police believe Sandra Galas was killed while she and Darren Galas were involved in a custody dispute over their two children.
Prior to the change of plea, a trial was scheduled for the end of April, Mendonca said. He was upset that sentencing was delayed.
In a confrontation outside of courtroom six where the hearing took place, Mendonca angrily confronted Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar and Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Winn.
“All you guys care about is numbers,” Mendonca yelled. “There’s no justice here. You’ve given him all the damn time in the world. We need to get a new prosecutor in here.”
As far as the plea deal goes, Kollar told TGI he could not go into detail about it until after sentencing has occurred, but it was a process of a lot of reflection and involved a lot of people.
Darren Galas, who walked out of the courthouse surrounded by family, declined to comment.
The case against Darren Galas was prosecuted five years ago, Mendonca said, but the defense has been delaying since then.
The sentencing, Mendonca said, needed to be finished at the end of April, not continued until the end of May so Darren Galas can attend high school graduations.
“I have no faith in the justice system. It’s bull. It’s just words,” Mendonca said. “Come to Kauai, if you want to commit a crime, because chances are you’ll get away with it.”
Mendonca said he no longer wants to talk to prosecutors.
“The way they reacted and what they do is ridiculous,” he said.
In a statement to the court, Darren Galas said he was changing his plea to no contest because he realizes how much anguish this has caused his family.
“I’ve agreed to plead no contest to the assault charge,” Galas said.
Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe told Galas the court accepted his change of plea in the reduced charge of assault in the first degree from guilty to no contest and found him guilty of assault in the first degree.
During the hearing, defense attorney Michael Green asked Watanabe if she could schedule Darren Galas’ sentencing to the end of May because there were three graduations he wanted to attend.
Watanabe said the sentencing was scheduled for April 25 and asked the state’s position on the matter.
“This has gone on quite a bit of time, and I know the Galas family would like to have this resolved as soon as possible,” Winn said, arguing the family would all be available at the end of April because they had already planned on being at the trial.
“We still ask for the end of April,” Winn said.
Green argued that when you look at the record, this case has been continued not just on behalf of himself and his client, but also on behalf of the prosecution.
“If he gets locked up, he’s got no children,” Greeen said. “He raised the children that he and Sandra had together, and they are here in court today. So if I can get 30 days more so he can attend the graduation and try and get his life done the best he can.”
In a prepared statement, Kauai Police Department Chief Darryl Perry said, “Today’s verdict does not reverse the untimely death of Sandra Galas, but we hope it does bring a small sense of closure to her family and loved one, that Darren Galas has taken responsibility for her death.”
Also in a prepared statement, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., said, “This case has weighed heavily on our community for over a decade and we will never forget Sandy. Our hearts and prayers continue to be with her ohana following today’s verdict.”
Mendoca said there is no healing.
“Not with this justice system,” he said.