Regina Krieger was 14 years old when her throat was slashed and her heart was stabbed. The man who showed up to a party covered in blood 26 years ago was convicted of her murder last week.
Gilberto Rodriguez, 58, was found guilty of murder in the first degree by a jury in Idaho, according to the Cassia County Sheriff’s Office.
Krieger officially went missing on Feb. 28, 1995 when her father, Dan Krieger, reported her as such to 911 dispatchers. She was last seen alive just before going to bed at her home in Burley, Idaho.
“Dan said there was blood on the bathroom floor, and it looked like something had been dragged up the stairs,” according to court documents obtained by East Idaho News. “There was blood going up the stairs that led to the backyard of the residence.”
The girl’s body was found a month-and-a-half later on April 15, 1995 as she washed up on the banks of the Snake River near the Minidoka Dam in the south central part of the state.
A cold case for more than two decades, Rodriguez was arrested in February 2019 on the apparent strength of testimony from three initially confidential witnesses who: (1) placed the defendant with Krieger on the night of her death; (2) described his chilling physical appearance after the murder; and (3) offered police specific details about the deadly struggle.
The first witness, later identified in court as prison inmate Cody Thompson, was 16 at the time of the murder while Rodriguez was 32. Thompson told investigators and later testified that he saw Rodriguez enter the teenager’s house and come back roughly half an hour later with telltale evidence of the crime.
“Rodriguez went back in and came out dragging something wrapped in a sheet or blanket,” Thompson said, according to court papers.
Rodriguez repeatedly mouthed out that he had “messed up” while the two drove the girl’s blanket-wrapped body to a bridge near the Minidoka Dam, the witness said. After getting Regina’s corpse out of the car’s trunk, the pair threw her into the water. Thompson said he later learned who they had disposed of but testified that he was scared of Rodriguez and kept his mouth shut for years.
According to MagicValley, Rodriguez’s defense attorney Keith Roark disputed Thompson’s testimony (and others who testified against his client) as the words of “liars” and “a bunch of lies by jailhouse snitches.”
The defense attorney also sought to cast local law enforcement as bumblers over their initial missteps in the case, noting that they originally chalked Krieger’s disappearance up as a runaway and initially declined to categorize her death as a homicide.
Those early failures later prompted the FBI to step in. Additional witnesses came forward after that.
The second witness told investigators that she was at a party when Rodridguez arrived with the first witness. Both appeared to be upset and were visibly stained with blood. When confronted, the first witness told the second witness about the murder–claiming responsibility for the girl’s death. The second witness also told investigators that she saw Rodriguez and the first witness bury a knife in a box somewhere on the property, court documents note.
In 2017, Rodriguez allegedly told the second witness that investigators were “not backing off” but would be unable to charge him with the girl’s death “because you know how we do things.”
“[H]e would never forget La Gina,” the third witness said, referring to a conversation they claimed to have had with Rodriguez, using a pet name for the girl he had literally torn apart.
The third witness also said that Krieger fought back.
According to this second-hand account of the altercation, Rodriguez said the two kicked and struggled before her death. The third witness also alleged that Rodriguez had killed before and threatened to kill again.
Rodriguez allegedly told a woman that he “would make her disappear” in the same way he had killed Krieger, the third witness told investigators in 2016.
Roark rubbished the testimony of witnesses earlier this month to no avail.
He asked jurors to decide “which story should they believe after the state’s witnesses gave inconsistent statements to police over the years.” Jurors went with the witnesses and returned a guilty verdict after three-and-a-half hours of deliberation.
The defendant’s sentencing is currently scheduled for Aug. 26, 2021.
[images via Cassia County Sheriff’s Office]
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