Murder case stalls after 2 years
As a young mother’s killer remains at large, the victim’s father is pleading with the public and police to keep the case from growing colder.
Sandra Mendonca Galas, a 27-year-old mother of two young boys, was found murdered in her parked car Jan. 25, 2006, at 549 Lei Papa Place, ‘Ele‘ele Nani
A petite woman, Galas died of strangulation with a cordlike object and blunt-force trauma to the head, according to her death certificate.
Though it offers little solace for the family, the death certificate so far is the only official document to provide closure, as her parents, brother and two small children await answers that could lead to the arrest, trial and conviction of the killer.
But it’s been a challenge to get those answers, says her father, Lawrence Mendonca, as has been keeping the story alive.
Sandra Galas’ ex-husband, Darren Galas, was arrested and held for 48 hours following her murder; however, he was released and no charges were filed against him.
Police have since ruled out Galas’ boyfriend, Ryan Shinjo, and also have “looked at everyone who was involved in her life,” Assistant Chief Roy Asher said.
The lack of answers has been a source of frustration for Mendonca, who said in an e-mail to police, “We are no closer to solving the case than we were the day it happened.
“Each day that goes by is another day that allows the murderer to think that he did it once and could do it again and get away with it. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to think that he may be right. It seems like it’s easy to get away with murder here on Kaua‘i.”
In a phone interview yesterday, Asher said any homicide case that’s unsolved — especially beyond a year’s time — is considered “cold.”
However, he also said police continue to work the case and are open to any leads brought forth by the public.
“Whether they heard it through a third party or not, we’d like to hear about it,” Asher said. “It doesn’t mean we could take (the statement) to court — usually you can’t — but we would investigate and see if we could corroborate any information heard.”
Mendonca continues to work to keep his daughter’s death in the public eye, including a golf tournament he has coordinated with the YWCA.
The event, slated for May 4 at the Po‘ipu Bay Golf Course at the Grand Hyatt, the former home of the Grand Slam of golf, will be dedicated to Galas’ memory.
Beyond the tournament, which Mendonca hopes will become an annual event, keeping awareness alive includes handing out “Never Forget Sandy G” stickers, made by one of Galas’ friends, and hanging fliers that offer a $10,000 reward for information that could lead to the killer.
“The reward will be there as long as it takes, as long as I’m alive,” he said.
Though several of the fliers Mendonca has posted on the Westside have been taken down, he is diligent about keeping the public informed that his daughter is still on his mind — he even had a United States Postal Service stamp made from a photograph of her.
“The picture is of how we remember her — with her sparkling eyes,” he said. “A true rendition of Sandy.”
Publicity on his daughter’s death hasn’t quite received national media attention, but steps toward that status have been taken.
The television show America’s Most Wanted, which videotaped Mendonca and his wife, Toshie, handing out reward fliers in ‘Ele‘ele, also captured footage of Galas’ murder site and grave in September.
The show was on-island in November 2006 to research the case of murdered Kaua‘i resident John Elwin; producers then returned to the island in November 2007 to shoot a segment on two unsolved Westside rapes and murders and one non-fatal, related attack that occurred between August and May of 2000.
Though he hasn’t sat down with police in a year, Mendonca said he is hoping to get an appointment with the new chief of police, Darryl Perry, to discuss his daughter’s case.
Galas’ car, considered the crime scene, is still in police custody, Mendonca said. DNA samples taken by police and forwarded to a lab for analysis yielded inconclusive results.
Anyone with information about Galas is asked to call detective Sam Sheldon at 241-1688 or Assistant Chief Roy Asher at 651-5883.