LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than six years after 27-year-old Sandra Mendonca Galas was brutally strangled in her 'Ele'ele home, the Kauai Police Department has used new forensic techniques and technologies to arrest the man they believe is responsible for her death.
Galas' estranged husband, 40-year-old Darren Galas, was arrested for the murder Friday afternoon.
Sandra Galas, who had two small children, was found dead inside her car in the garage of her home on January 25, 2006.
"She had a very positive attitude," said Renae Hamilton, executive director of YWCA Kauai. She was the principal at a school Galas attended. "She turned around and was very concerned about helping others behind her. Anybody who was having any difficulty, Sandy would be there."
The arrest was made possible through the formation of "Ke Ahi Pio'ole"—"the fire that never burns out"—a prosecutor-directed cold case murder unit led by prosecuting attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.
"True strength is a product of collaboration and dedication." said Iseri-Carvalho. "Our drive and desire to seek justice for Sandra has always burned within our hearts and souls, and we look forward to honoring her memory by ensuring that her killer is held accountable."
Investigators had suspected Darren Galas, but didn't have enough evidence to charge him initially.
"There weren't any witnesses to the act itself, so a case had to be built through what's transpired prior and since the event," said Kauai Assistant Police Chief Roy Asher.
Police said the cold case unit, "comprised of experienced prosecutors and senior investigators from KPD's Investigative Services Bureau, brought an unprecedented level of focus and expertise to Sandra's murder, which resulted in the case finally moving forward."
"They sent out things for testing. We interviewed suspects. We were able to expand on their previous statements. We were able to corroborate what was previously offered," said Asher.
While authorities kept the investigation open, Sandra Galas' father, Larry Mendonca, partnered with the YWCA Kauai and others to host an annual golf tournament her name, with the money raised going to help abused women and children.
"I do believe the golf tournament has helped increase awareness, our continuous calls for people to come forward if they information to help," said Hamilton.
"This kind of progress in a case like this, it will give hope to the community," Hamilton added. "There are other women on Kauai and across our state who have lost their lives and their cases remain open."
Galas is currently in custody with bail set at $1,000,000.00.