HALAWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - After more than two decades, the main suspect in the disappearance of a 19-year-old Pearl Harbor cashier spoke out for the first time.
In a hearing before the Hawaii Paroling Authority, Jenaro Torres says he's innocent of alleged murder of Ruben Gallegos, who has been missing since 1992 and is presumed dead.
"They can say whatever they want about me -- me being a monster, me being a criminal -- I know what I am. I have nothing to hide," Torres said.
"I'll say this before the board today -- I do not know what happened to Ruben Gallegos on May 1st."
The 65-year-old Torres was initially convicted of second degree murder in 2007 but the case was reversed due to a technical error by the state.
Torres later pleaded no contest to assault – but not to murdering Gallegos -- and received a 10-year sentence .He is now asking the parole board for minimum jail time of five years, which could allow him to go free by the end of the month.
"Jenaro did not kill anybody. He's charged with assault in the first degree," said his attorney Emmanuel Guerrero.
"He entered a no-contest plea. To this day, as well as back then before Judge Wilson, he has not admitted any guilt to doing any of the allegations that was asserted."
But prosecutors are still convinced that Torres is their man and they want him to serve the entire 10 years.
"The defendant even at sentencing refuses to acknowledge his guilt in killing Ruben Gallegos or disclose the location of his body," said Deputy Attorney General Susan Won.
Gallegos was last seen with Torres in May 1992, leaving the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Navy Exchange with $80,000 in stolen cash.
Police never found Gallegos' body but later discovered the victim's wallet, ID cards and most of the stolen money in Torres' car.
Torres, a retired Marine, worked at Pearl Harbor as a military police officer.
During Tuesday's hearing, prosecutors read statements from Gallegos' family, asking that Torres be kept in jail for the full 10 years.
"On May 1, 1992 you became a monster that does not deserve any freedom or rights," said Gallegos' older sister Blanca Fanely.
"You took everything away from Ruben and our entire family."
Gallegos' younger sister Leticia Gallegos Ramirez added:
"Jenaro Torres is a cold-blooded murderer who deserves to stay in jail where he will not harm another life," she said.
The parole board will issue a decision within two weeks but it said any ruling will be based on sentencing guidelines for assault cases, not murder.
"I know there is a lot of emotion by the family with regard to the letters and their remembrances of their loves ones," said Bert Matsuoka, chairman of the Hawaii Paroling Authority.
"But the murder charge was overturned and is now an assault case and this is how the board is going to have to look at it."