A military judge Tuesday sentenced a 24-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier to 62 years in prison for bashing his wife on the head four times with a baseball bat as she slept in her on-base home and then stabbing her in the back four times to make sure she was dead.
Spc. Raul Hernandez Perez pleaded guilty the day before to premeditated murder and disobeying a no- contact order in the Jan. 10 death of his wife, Selena Roth, 25, as part of a plea agreement that called for a sentence of between 50 and 65 years.
Army prosecutor Capt. Benjamin Koenigsfeld sought the full 65-year term, noting that Roth, an Army veteran and mother of a daughter who was then 1, had been viciously bludgeoned, stabbed and dumped into a trash bin that had been wheeled into the foyer of her home.
From Jan. 13 on, when Roth’s body was found and Hernandez Perez was detained, “he hasn’t shown an ounce of remorse for what he did,” Koenigsfeld said before the sentence was imposed.
He added that Hernandez Perez “deserves 65 years. He deserves every single one of them.”
Defense attorney Capt. Brian Tracy said in his closing remarks that it was “unbridled emotion that brought us here.”
Roth, who was involved in a turbulent marriage with Hernandez Perez, had made a threat against his mother and twice mailed cow manure to her, Tracy said.
Even though Hernandez Perez had filed for divorce, with a final hearing just weeks away, the “tipping point” came with Roth at one point saying that “he could never truly be free of her” because she’d kill Hernandez Perez’s mother in Florida, the defense said.
But Hernandez Perez admitted in court on Monday, “I don’t think she (his mother) was under any immediate threat.”
Tracy, in seeking a 50-year sentence, characterized Hernandez Perez as a then-23-year-old “pushed to the brink” who “felt boxed in.”
But instead of murdering Roth, Hernandez Perez, who was by then living back in the barracks with an order from his command not to have contact with his wife, “could have left and finalized the divorce in less than a month,” Koenigsfeld noted.
Col. Mark Bridges, the judge in the case, sentenced the soldier to 62 years and a dishonorable discharge, with credit for 244 days of pretrial confinement.
Wearing his camouflage uniform and a black face mask, Hernandez Perez was emotionless when the sentence was handed down, just as he had been for all the proceedings.
Technically, he will be eligible for parole after 10 years, but the Army said fewer than 10% of military prisoners are freed early. Roth’s family was assured by prosecutors that he would serve a full sentence minus minimal time off for good behavior.
About a dozen of Roth’s family members flew in for the plea agreement and sentencing. Her mother, Joanne Roth, said the term “was anticipated to be about that (62 years). We were hoping for at least more than 60, and it fell in that range. So we’re satisfied with it.”
Family members said Roth “was a huge advocate for animals” and adopted many herself. Three dogs were found in cages with no food or water in her Schofield two-story home after she was killed and her body was discovered three days later on Jan. 13.
An Army prosecutor had previously said Hernandez Perez had rekindled a relationship with a high school sweetheart in his home state of Florida.
Despite that, on Jan. 9 — the day of their first anniversary — Hernandez Perez and Roth spent the day together and went to the Pearlridge mall, where they were seen on camera footage holding hands, the prosecution said.
Army prosecutor Capt. Matthew Bishop said at a May 20 Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing, that Hernandez Perez, a signals intelligence analyst assigned to the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, obtained a temporary restraining order against Roth claiming “psychological abuse.”
But Bishop said the soldier, who lived in barracks housing at the time, would go to Roth’s house on base and have sex with her, leave and call police to say she was violating the restraining order.
Aubrey Rangel, one of Roth’s sisters, said she believes it was the new relationship with the Florida woman that led to her sister’s death.
“He wanted to be with her, and he wanted Selena out of the way,” Rangel said. She said Roth never threatened to kill Hernandez Perez’s mother, and that allegation is not included in the guilty plea “stipulation of fact,” “so this was just a new lie that was created.”
Roth was still in love with Hernandez Perez and was angry about his relationship with the Florida woman, “but he is no longer in love with her,” the prosecution had said previously.
He said in divorce filings that on Oct. 31 he was moving out of the house over an argument and that Roth tossed his PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and computer tower out on the driveway. She also let the air out of his tires, he said.
Hernandez Perez and his family came to the U.S. from Cuba when he was 8. A series of acquaintances said by telephone that he was a quiet boy growing up and didn’t show violent tendencies.
On the witness stand, Hernandez Perez said to Roth’s family, “I would like to apologize for what I’ve done.” He was asked by the defense whether he is an “emotional person.”
“Inside, yes, I would show my feelings. I don’t like anybody seeing how I feel,” he said, adding he is seeing a psychiatrist to help process feelings and emotions.
He married Roth “mostly” to support her daughter, Nemea, and to keep military housing, he said. Roth didn’t want him texting his new girlfriend. Asked by the defense how he dealt with Roth’s frustrations and the tension, he said, “I mean, that’s why we’re here.”
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