More than 25 years after the homicide of a teenager, a jury found an Idaho man guilty of first-degree murder in the cold case.
Now, Gilberto Flores Rodriguez, 58, is set to be sentenced in August.
On May 25, a 12-member jury found Rodriguez guilty after a week-long trial at the Cassia County, Idaho, courthouse. The jury had deliberated for a mere three hours before arriving at the unanimous decision.
On Feb. 27, 1995, Regina Krieger, 14, went missing from her father’s basement two days shy of her 15th birthday. There had been evidence of foul play after a considerable amount of blood was found in the home.
However, authorities had no evidence of a body and classified her as missing.
Almost two months later, Krieger’s decomposed body was found by individuals riding on horseback by the receded portion of the Snake River by the Montgomery Bridge. The medical examiner determined her body was in the water for about a month. Krieger had been stabbed in the heart, and her throat was slashed. Her case went cold for decades without an arrest.
Rodriguez was a Burley, Idaho, resident who was arrested and charged in 2019. Witnesses reported him as the killer, who dumped her body in the river and hid the murder weapon.
During the State’s closing arguments, Cassia County Prosecutor McCord Larsen reminded the jury to use their common sense to judge the truth. His statements were due to the state’s primary dependence on circumstantial evidence and witness testimonies through the trial.
Prison inmate Cody Thompson, who was 16 years old when Krieger went missing, had been one of the state’s key witnesses. He claimed Rodriguez killed Krieger, forcing him to load her body in his car and dump her body in the river.
During the trial, Thompson had admitted lying to investigators and had changed his story more than once.
In anticipation of the defense team challenging Thompson’s credibility, Larsen reminded the jury the state had no mandate to prove everything introduced and uncovered during the trial, but only elements to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt according to the instructions given to the jury.
“Swans don’t swim in the sewer. Court witnesses are seldom rabbis and priests,” Larson said according to a media report.
On the other hand, Rodriguez’s attorney Keith Roark attempted to sway the jury towards his client’s innocence. He made the argument the state had not presented any real evidence but produced unreliable jailhouse snitches with ulterior motives and benefits in unrelated crimes. Roark also emphasized the initial DNA evidence taken from Krieger’s body did not match his client.
Furthermore, Roark raised the lack of due diligence on the part of the police to investigate if anyone else had been with Krieger on the day she disappeared. He reminded the jury the murder weapon was never found.
The verdict was a win for Krieger’s family after many years of manhours and investigations by local and federal agencies.
The Cassia County Sheriff’s Office, in collaboration with a local cold case group, posted on Facebook after the verdict.
“Congratulations to prosecutors, the FBI, detectives and all others who made it possible. To Regina's family and friends, it’s been a long time coming,” the post read. “Embrace and remember this beautiful soul.”