Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Gerald & Charlene Gallego


Charlene struck a deal.  It took a while, but eventually prosecutors arranged for her to plead guilty to the murders of Craig Miller and Mary Beth Sowers.  In exchange for her plea and her testimony against Gerald, she was given a sentence of sixteen years and eight months, which was the minimum time to which she could be sentenced in California for first-degree murder.  She struck a similar deal with Nevada authorities, pleading guilty to the second-degree murder of Karen Twiggs and Stacey Redican and receiving the same sentence.  Oregon prosecutors decided to let California and Nevada bear the expense of investigation and trial and declined to file charges.  Authorities in California were not happy with the plea bargain and tried to have it withdrawn, but in late 1983, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge dropped the charges against Charlene in the Miller and Sowers deaths.  With the infighting over, the way was clear to prosecute Gerald.

Gerald Gallego views part of his trial on TV monitors (AP)
Gerald Gallego views part
of his trial on TV monitors

Gerald, exhibiting the same hubris that had brought him to his current state, decided to serve as his own attorney.  His misadventure in defense began with his deferring his right to an opening statement until after the prosecution had made its own statement.  He further damaged his case and credibility by offering no cross-examination of Mercedes Williams, one of the prosecutions most effective witnesses.  He did cross-examine Charlene however, for six days.

During the prosecutions questioning, Charlene had offered a defense for her lack of action.  She had been afraid of Gerald, she said.  He beat her and he threatened her.  He demanded and kept all the money she made, and when shed expressed doubt or displeasure, she testified that he shamed her, saying she wasnt the girl with heart hed thought she was.   During his cross-examination, Gerald tried to undermine her credibility, offering as evidence a love note shed written him after their capture.  He portrayed her as an unstable drug addict and got her to admit to a lesbian affair shed had while in jail awaiting the trial.  On the final day of laborious, trivial questioning, Gerald came to his point.  Mrs. Gallego, he said, isnt the bottom line of your deal to blame both these murders on me to save yourself?  Charlene shot back, No it is not!!!

It seemed unthinkable that Gerald could do anything to further undermine his own defense, but he did.  He put himself on the stand, which allowed prosecutors to catch him in countless inconsistencies.  In his closing statement he admitted hed taken a legal licking, but asked the jury to believe him on faith, if nothing else.   They did not.  On June 21, 1983, Gerald Gallego was sentenced to death for the murders of Craig Miller and Mary Beth Sowers.

Following the California trial, Gerald was charged in Nevada with the murders of Stacy Redican, Karen Twiggs, Brenda Judd and Sandra Colley.  As Judds and Colleys bodies hadnt been found, the States best evidence was in the Redican/Twiggs case.  Charlene had led investigators to a ball of white macramé rope in Geralds car.  The rope matched that found binding the hands of the bodies of Redican and Twiggs. 

Gerald Gallego after his sentencing.
Gerald Gallego after
his sentencing.

Geralds second trial began on May 23, 1984 in Pershing County, Nevada.  This time he let a public defender, Gary Marr, handle his case.  Again, the strategy was to try and discredit Charlenes testimony.  As star witness, she gave a detailed account of the last hours of Stacey Redican and Karen Twiggs.  Marr had no more luck swaying the jury than Gerald had, however, and it took them just two and a half hours to return a guilty verdict.  Gerald was again sentenced to death, becoming one of the few American criminals to be put on death row in two states simultaneously.


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