A 24-year-old married Schofield Barracks soldier who had rekindled a relationship with his high school sweetheart took out a $100,000 life insurance policy on his wife, Googled how many swings it took to kill someone with a baseball bat, and beat and stabbed her to death following their first wedding anniversary, an Army prosecutor said Thursday.
At an Article 32 hearing similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court, Capt. Matthew Bishop asked the hearing officer to find probable cause that Spc. Raul Hernandez Perez committed premeditated murder in the death of Selena Roth, 25, whose body was discovered Jan. 13 in a garbage bin dragged into her Schofield home.
If tried at court-martial and convicted of the charge, Hernandez Perez faces life in prison without the chance of parole. He is being held in the brig on Ford Island.
Bishop acknowledged that Hernandez Perez and Roth had a “very rocky ” relationship. “More importantly, he wanted to be with “his high school sweetheart in Fort Myers, Fla., “and Selena was in the way of that,” said Bishop, one of the prosecutors.
Hernandez Perez and the Florida woman were planning a life together and he had taken engagement steps. He also had checked into flights to South America, Bishop said.
A signals intelligence analyst assigned to the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, Hernandez Perez was represented at the hearing—conducted in a brigade motor pool building on Schofield—by Army lawyer Capt. Brian Tracy. He also is represented by mainland attorney Michael Waddington, who was on speakerphone.
No witnesses were called by either side, and Tracy said the defense would not have a response after Bishop outlined the prosecution case. A military commander will review the evidence and decide what charges, if any, to try Hernandez Perez on at court-martial. An arraignment would follow that.
Aubrey Rangel, Roth’s sister, previously said on Facebook that “my family and I knew something was wrong because we had not heard from Selena in days, ” and Rangel called military police to request a wellness check.
What police were greeted by on Jan. 13 at her home was “truly horrific, ” Bishop said.
The body of the Army veteran, also a onetime signals intelligence analyst and mother of a young daughter, was found stuffed in an outdoor trash bin that had been moved just inside the two-story house, Bishop said. Photos taken show one arm and hand of Roth’s visible poking up through a towel and sheet rolled up and thrown on top of her.
The master bedroom had blood splattered on all four walls and the ceiling, Bishop said. Blood had heavily stained the spot on the bed mattress where her head would be.
Bishop said Roth was a woodworker. Her garage was strewn with leftover pieces of wood, and Bishop said Hernandez Perez retrieved a several-foot piece of two-by-two to beat her on the back of her head and used a kitchen knife to stab her four times in the back.
Roth was probably lying on the bed early on the morning of Jan. 10, most likely on her stomach, “showing there was no threat to the accused, ” Bishop said. There were no defensive wounds on her hands, he said.
The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office found that Roth died as a result of blunt force trauma to her head with stab wounds as a contributor, according to Bishop.
Wearing his Army camouflage uniform and a black mask, Hernandez Perez showed no emotion during the hearing and did not look away when gruesome photos of Roth’s dead body were projected on a wall in the room.
All the Naples, Fla., man said was “No sir, ” when asked by hearing officer Lt. Col. Burt Smith whether he had any questions about some of the evidence that would be presented.
Bishop said the relationship was “rocky from the very beginning ” after Hernandez Perez and Roth married on Jan. 9, 2020.
A Kaneohe Bay Marine was previously married to Roth and is the father of her daughter, who was born in 2019. Roth was angry about Hernandez Perez’s relationship with the Florida woman, according to the prosecution.
Roth was still in love with Hernandez Perez, “but he is no longer in love with her, ” Bishop said.
Hernandez Perez filed for divorce Oct. 8. At one point he made a request for a hearing to be moved up from Jan. 21, but it was denied.
“I am trying to advance the hearing date because I leave island due to military schooling, ” he hand-wrote in the court document. “I will not be returning to Hawaii after schooling and I will be moved to a different duty station.”
He said in 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.
He obtained a temporary restraining order against Roth claiming “psychological abuse, ” but Bishop said the soldier, who subsequently lived in barracks housing, would go to Roth’s house and have sex with her, leave and call police to say she was violating the restraining order.
On Dec. 15 he made himself the beneficiary of a $100, 000 life insurance policy on Roth, the Army said. The next month, on Jan. 9—the day of their anniversary and referred to as “Raul Day “—the couple spent the day together and went to Pearlridge mall, where they were seen on camera footage holding hands, Bishop said.
The pair returned to Roth’s house, and Hernandez Perez was there from just after midnight to about 8 a.m., with the soldier later denying he was there and then admitting he was, Bishop said.
In the backyard, ground was found dug in roughly a “grave shape.” Bleach, vinegar, Lysol and paper towels were in the kitchen.
On Jan. 11 and 12, Hernandez Perez returned to Roth’s house and Googled “trash pickup days, ” the prosecution said.
Bishop said Hernandez Perez was wearing a green hoodie, gray sweat pants and black Nikes in video at Pearlridge, and the hoodie and sweat pants were found in a trash can in his room with blood on them. Bloody footprints at the murder scene matched his Nikes, Bishop said.
Hernandez Perez had airplane tickets to Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 7—where his new girlfriend lived, the Army captain noted.
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