Murder charge reduced

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    Larry Mendonca, father of Sandra Galas, receives a hug from a friend after court on Monday.

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.

  1. Knowitall January 30, 2018 12:12 am Reply

    Strangled to death and pleading to Assault. . . No shame these prosecutors

  2. Uncleaina January 30, 2018 6:29 am Reply

    Justice didn’t get served- it got played. Tarry Low gets to skip trial to go to Vegas- now the admitted killer of Sandy G gets a few extra months of freedom- why? Why make a killers life easier? Who did he pay off or whatever? Guys this isn’t normal! On the mainland admitted murderers aren’t allowed to play golf and hit the bar for a few more months…ever! We also had the murderer Hilario chilling at KCCC for years after being found guilty of murder in the first degree before being sent to a real prison. He was smoking weed in KCCC and that allowed him to stay even longer. What’s wrong Mr Kollar? What’s the problem Judge Watanabe? No stomach for actual punishment? Sandy has been dead a LONG time – this man is the man we all suspected all along and he already HAD his extra freedom- he saw Christmas this year for example. And last Christmas and like 9 Christmases before that. Very disappointed in what passes as justice here on Kauai. Maybe we need some stronger people in charge.

  3. gordon oswald January 30, 2018 7:23 am Reply

    The justice system in America is broken. In other words, United States Citizens do not receive justice in the way our founding fathers envisioned. We are a failed Nation when it comes to solving a crime, trying a crime, and the appropriate sentence being given IN A TIMELY MANNER! No trial or law suit should take longer than 1 year from beginning to end. This man should have been executed 10 years ago. End of story!

  4. Heihei808 January 30, 2018 8:19 am Reply

    This man just admitted (in a roundabout way), that he killed his wife. Assault in the second degree is rubbish, everyone knows what he did. Sandy doesn’t get to see her children grow up much less their graduation so who gives a rats behind if Darren Galas doesn’t get to see his kids graduate? A woman is dead and this Galas turkey gets all the considerations in the word. Kauai’s justice system really is sad.

  5. Reverend Malama Robinson January 30, 2018 9:03 am Reply


  6. jacob liggett January 30, 2018 10:39 am Reply

    This is outrageous. First degree assault for taking the life of another human being. Why not change the name of Kauai to “Murder Island.”

  7. manongindashadow January 30, 2018 12:20 pm Reply

    What about Sandy? She will never get to see and attend any of her children graduation. Because of a selfish act for Galas to end her life.
    Please sentence him in April. Let him feel the pain that the Mendoncas have suffered for a decade and then some. Hopefully there will be no chance of parole for him!

  8. Joe Public January 30, 2018 12:44 pm Reply

    Only on Kauai..can you get a murder charge dropped to assault. Good Job Mr. Green, thats why you are one of the best in Hawaii…Any chance of you running for Prosecutor to help Kauai??

  9. JOAN HIGGINS January 30, 2018 4:38 pm Reply


  10. Anon Ymouse January 30, 2018 6:00 pm Reply

    I’m going to be very curious what Kollar has to say about the plea deal after sentencing is done.

  11. Anonymous January 30, 2018 7:19 pm Reply

    When a plea deal is offered it means that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prosecute.
    Also the information in the article is incorrect as that the change of plea was NOT from guilty to no contest his original plea was NOT guilty and was changed to no contest. Furthermore he was NOT found guilty for assult.
    Look it up in the dictionary a no contest plea does not mean guilty it means “a no contest plea is used in a criminal proceeding when as an alternate to a guilty or not guilty plea whereby the defendant neither disputed nor admits to the crime.” Check the dictionary.
    Thank you TGI for reporting the wrong news once again! We can always count on you to print misinformation

    1. Moriquenda Jones June 16, 2018 4:24 am Reply

      There seemed to be enough evidence to take this man to trial for murder until Justin F. Kollar was elected. I have never seen or heard of a “no contest” defense used in a case where the defendant was not guilty. Dictionaries may provide definitions, but that means very little when legal system gives us the law, not justice.

    2. Stan Lore February 19, 2020 2:26 am Reply

      A no contest plea, like an Alford plea is a guilty plea. He doesn’t admit guilt but goes to prison. A judge cannot send someone to prison unless they are proved guilty. A no contest plea is allows the defendant to avoid trial and a potentially longer prison sentence. This is an instance of judicial incompetence and insensitivity to victims. Blunt force trauma and strangulation deserves a murder conviction, not mere ‘assault’. Assault!!! When you assault a person in a prolonged manner that ends his/her life, you commit murder. The judge and DA should be thankful Sandra’s father has not taken vengeance. Their decision to coddle a murderer is not justice. They deserve to lose their jobs since they showed they cannot be trusted to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system and the citizens they are bound to serve.

  12. KauaiCerealKillah January 30, 2018 8:10 pm Reply

    The Kauai PA office recovered DNA but he got off because Kauai As Why. They protected the dirty pig going over 110 MPH and ran over and killed a kid. A convicted rapist killed Lauren Kagawa and only got set up for a DUI. A former kpd cop set up Aurero Moore’s murder and possibly killed Monica Aves niece who was a so called vice informant. The killed a guy for his retirement and life’s savings. They protected the Kauai Serial Killer who everyone know who he is. Too much Shibai on Kauai.

  13. Kollar is a clown and so is KPD January 30, 2018 11:05 pm Reply

    Kollar you’re a clown along with the rest of these donkeys!!! Galas killed his wife and admitted to to several people yet gets a plea deal!?!! Only on this island! I guess it really helps to know somebody straight up braddah braddah kine! Scrubs!> The feds need to do a thorough investigation intoOPA and KPD!!!!

  14. Harold Siegwart January 31, 2018 6:32 pm Reply

    There’s one good thing that’s going to come out of this case and that is this guy is going to meet his maker one day and guess what he’s going to have to pay.!! No one can outrun the wrath of God…..

  15. Brandi February 3, 2018 5:19 am Reply

    As women, we are told to leave our abusers, take the children, report them, file restraining order. Look what happens. Rarely do we get away and win. It usually comes down to our children being used against us. He really is given the consideration of going to his child’s graduation? She wasn’t given consideration in any right. Frightening and DEVASTATING reality for woman and children in Kauai. To no end. This is a violent predators paradise.

  16. thereyouhaveit April 8, 2018 7:23 pm Reply

    Amazing what an old boys club we have in the KPD where you literally CAN get away with murder. It is a sad fate for many women and girls on this island to have the cultural norm of tolerating domestic violence, and sexual abuse. And when some of the women do stand up and try to pull away the perps it can esculate into murder like this case. The real tragedy here are the kids that were raised in this warped reality of their mothers killer being their only parent, and how they navigate life going forward knowing their dad is not whom he said he was all of these years. It is one thing to do a horrible thing, another to lie and not do the time for the crime. Strangling someone takes several minutes I would think – this guy did not have a bell that went off that said STOP. He kept going until the mother of his children was dead. Being a nice guy to people who don’t upset him does not make him a safe member of society. God isn’t fooled.

  17. Karen June 15, 2018 6:02 pm Reply

    I watched Dateline regarding this story. It’s sad when Larry had to work diligently to investigate his daughter’s murder. So many setbacks and delays. Had Prosecutor Kollar done his job and pursued the case against Darren, he would be charged with murder. Now he only is serving 10 years. He deserves to never see the light of day. He robbed Sandra’s family and children of her future with them. Her children were raised by a monster and murderer after she died. It is my hope that they will have a relationship with their Grandparents. Rest In Peace Sandra.

  18. Robert June 16, 2018 9:16 am Reply

    The law needs to change from reasonable doubt to common sense! GUILTY

  19. Yolanda June 18, 2018 8:16 pm Reply

    Saw Dateline and was disgusted by how this guy got to raise his children after he strangled their mother. These boys are standing behind their father from what I’ve read at other sites. I’m sure he has turned them against the woman who birthed them and he strangled. What a horrible prosecutor and set of laws you have on that island.

  20. mike October 3, 2019 1:08 pm Reply

    saw the dateline episode too. its amazing how his ignorant friends and family can stand behind this punk. sad his kids crew up to be a punk just like their father. they all wearing the same black shades, jewelry, hair, walk etc. sad

  21. Hilda Glenski March 8, 2020 12:41 am Reply

    I am disgusted in the Kauai system, my family was set to vacation there next year. I DON’T THINK SO. WTF is wrong here. This idiot clearly killed his wife. This wasn’t justice this was ‘I GOT AWAY WITH MURDER” I am going to let everyone know about this case and we will boycott Kauai!

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