Gerald and Charlene Gallego are two American serial killers who terrorized Sacramento, California between 1978 and 1980.
Charlene Gallego was born Charlene Adelle Williams near Sacramento, California, on October 10, 1956. Her father Charles was a respected entrepreneur who was the vice-president of a supermarket chain. He and his wife Mercedes often travelled as part of their business life. Early school reports suggest Charlene was a quiet and shy child, who had good attendance.
Charlene’s mother was hurt badly in a car accident; this was the reason she stopped travelling around with her husband. Charlene took over her mother’s duties, and would often travel with her father on business trips. It was there she was often praised by her father’s clients for being an intelligent and well-spoken child.
But by high school, Charlene was taking drugs and bragged to friends about a black lover. Charlene eventually married a young, wealthy man who was a heroin addict. He claimed that Charlene was obsessed with lesbian sex and begged him to have a threesome with her and a prostitute. She was also using a large number of drugs and didn’t care about her appearance. Her first husband hated that Charlene’s parents also intervened in their relationship, so the marriage failed and they got divorced. Charlene’s next husband was a soldier who Charlene described as a “mother’s boy”. She grew bored with him and they got divorced. Charlene then had an affair with a married man who soon ended the relationship after she asked if they could have sex with his wife. After the breakup, she attempted suicide but survived. It was not long after this that she met Gerald.
Gerald was born on July 17, 1946. His mother and her numerous boyfriends had beaten him during his formative years, and, when his mother became a prostitute, he was abused by some of her clients. His estranged father (also named Gerald Gallego) was a criminal who in 1955 became the first man executed in the Mississippi gas chamber, for the killing of a police officer during a prison escape. He was often left hungry and dirty and was always pleading to be held and hugged. Gallego began his criminal career at age thirteen, when he sexually abused a six-year-old girl.
In December of 1963, Gerald married his first wife. He was sixteen, she was twenty-one. In April of 1964, Gerald’s first child Krista was born. The marriage was short lived and Gerald somehow managed to gain custody of his daughter and sent her off to live with his mother. On July 12, 1966, Gerald again married. His bride was a twenty-four year old waitress form West Sacramento. However, just twenty-six days after it began, the marriage fell apart. It appears Gerald enjoyed beating his new bride and chasing her around with knives. On October 25, 1969, Gerald and his Half-brother David were again arrested for armed robbery. They had targeted a motel in Vacaville, California. Shortly after their arrest, the two brothers and another inmate escaped the Solano County jail. Nonetheless, they were recaptured four days later. Gallego was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the robbery.
On October 14, 1967, Gerald took his third wife, a laundry worker. This marriage lasted one month. He seemed to enjoy beating her as well. Gerald’s fourth marriage took place in March of 1969, in Reno. His new wife, nineteen-year-old Harriette, was pregnant by the time their marriage ended less than a month after it began. The family of Harriette referred to Gerald as Jekyll and Hyde. To this day, the daughter does not know the identity of her father. On October 5, 1974, Gerald went down the aisle a fifth time in Butte County. His new nineteen-year-old wife was a laundry worker. On December 12, 1975, Gerald was discharged from parole. In August of 1977, Gerald and his wife separated. In the fall of 1977, Gerald met Charlene Adell Williams, at a poker club in Sacramento. The two immediately hit it off.
He was still married to a previous wife when he married Charlene Williams. He also started sexually abusing his daughter. Gerald liked rough sex and Charlene responded to this. At first, their sex life was so good that they couldn’t get enough of each other. Gerald particularly enjoyed sodomizing Charlene, but she later said in court that she hated the painful experience.
Charlene was sexually submissive; sexual submission relies strongly on conversational power play. The submissive often indicates to the dominant party what he or she enjoys so, in a way, it is the submissive that’s in charge. Charlene was disliked in work for being too flirtatious with her male co-workers, but she wanted a man who would take charge and be dominant. Gerald appeared streetwise and very masterful. Within a week of meeting, the new couple had rented a house and moved in together. Gerald soon moved beyond flowers and chocolates, and Charlene accepted that he was more interested in his own sexual satisfaction. Charlene was fascinated by his machismo and was soon sharing in his illicit fantasies.
After they had been living together for a few months, Gerald brought home a sixteen year old dancer, and they had a threesome together. He made sure that the two women only touched him and not each other. After he returned home from work, however, he found Charlene and the dancer in bed together. Enraged, he threw the girl out an open window, then hit Charlene. He then withheld sex from her saying he had become impotent, in reality though he most likely found her unattractive, because she’d shown she wasn’t fully dependent on him for sexual kicks. Gerald soon sodomized his now fourteen year-old daughter and her friend, and he did so with Charlene’s knowledge. It is unclear if she was in the room with them or just in the same apartment, but evidently she didn’t find anything immoral in what Gerald had done.
With Gerald working as a bartender, Charlene suspected he was sleeping with his customers as he was now disinterested in her sexually. When the couple had been together for a year, he said that he needed a pair of love slaves to turn him on and asked Charlene to procure them. Some sources suggest she agreed because she saw his word as law and that she only wanted to please him. Whatever her motivation, she agreed to lure teenage victims to their certain deaths.
On 11 September 1978, two teenagers – Rhonda Scheffler and Kippi Vaught – aged 17 and 16 respectively, were shopping at Sacramento’s Country Club Plaza on September 10, 1978. Charlene picked them up and put them in the back of the couple’s van. Gerald repeatedly raped the two victims throughout the night in Baxter, California. The next day, the Gallegos drove to Sloughhouse, where Gerald got Rhonda and Kippi out of the van. He then made them walk out in the field to a ditch where he hit Kippi first with a tire iron then swung around and hit Rhonda. Finally, he shot each girl in the head with a 25-caliber pistol. As Gerald was walking back he saw one of the victims move (later revealed as Kippi Vaught) because the bullet had only grazed her skull. He returned and shot her three more times in the head, killing her.
On 24 June 1979 Brenda Judd (age 14) and Sandra Colley (age 13) were lured into the Gallegos’ van at the Washoe County Fair in Nevada on the promise of making some money delivering leaflets. Charlene drove the van northeast out of Reno on I-80. At the back of the van, Gerald repeatedly raped the two young girls while Charlene watched in the rearview mirror. Charlene then parked their van in a desolate area known as Humboldt Sink.
In the next couple of hours, Gerald rested and watched Charlene force the girls to perform sexual acts on each other. Gerald then took a shovel from under the seat of their van and pulled Colley out of the vehicle, marching her toward a dry creek bed. He then stepped behind Colley and swung the shovel. Charlene would later recall the sound, describing it as “a loud splat like a flat rock hitting mud, and the girl sank to her knees and slowly toppled over on her face.” Gerald then beat Judd to death and dug a deep hole, folding the naked bodies of the two girls into it and placing a rock over the grave. Their remains were not discovered until November 1999 by a tractor operator. The teenagers were listed as runaways for four years until Charlene confessed to their murders during the 1982 trial. On April 24, 1980 the Gallegos kidnapped Stacey Redican and Karen Chipman Twiggs from Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, a bedroom community north of Sacramento. As with their other victims, husband and wife sexually abused and bludgeoned to death.
While hitchhiking in Port Orford, Oregon on 6 June 1980, Linda Teresa Aguilar – disappeared. Relatives reported her missing on June 20, and her body was found two days later, in a shallow grave located south of Gold Beach. The victim’s skull was shattered, her wrists and ankles bound with nylon cord, but an autopsy revealed sand in her nose, mouth, and throat, indicating that she was buried alive. On July 17, 1980, 34-year-old Virginia Mochel was abducted from the parking lot of a West Sacramento tavern, where she worked as a bartender. Her skeletal remains, still bound with nylon fishing line, were found three months later outside of Clarksburg. Loops of cord from the victim’s neck were admitted as proof of death by strangulation.
At 1:30am on November 2, 1980, Gerald saw a young couple, twenty-two-year-old Craig Miller, and his fiancée, twenty-one-year-old Mary Elizabeth Sowers, standing on the side of the street After leaving a fraternity dance. In his most brazen attempt yet, Gerald got out of the car, walked right up to them, pulled out a .25 caliber Beretta, pointed it in the couples face, and ordered them into the car. Moments later, friends observed them seated in a car outside, a rough-looking stranger sitting up front, on the passenger’s side. One of Craig’s friends was sliding behind the wheel, to make small talk, when Charlene Gallego appeared, slapping his face as she ordered him out of the car and sped away.
Unfortunately for Gerald, the friends of the young couple wrote down the license plate number. After driving to a secluded area, Gerald commanded Craig out of the car, as the young man turned to walk towards the front of the vehicle, Gerald aimed his pistol and shot the boy at point-blank range in the back of the head while his fiancée looked on in horror. Gerald then fired two more shots into Craig’s head, as he lay lifeless on the ground, his body was found near Bass Lake, California. Gerald got back into the vehicle and ordered Charlene to drive to their apartment. Once back at the apartment, Gerald took his new sex slave into the bedroom and raped her for hours on end. After he was satisfied, he ordered Charlene to drive to a rural area. Once there, Gerald ordered Mary out of the car. He then shot her three times at point blank range. Beth Sowers would not be found until November 22, shot three times and dumped in a Placer County ditch.
The friends of Miller and Sowers who witnessed their abduction reported the car’s license plate number. Officers traced the vehicle to Charlene’s parents. When Gerald and Charlene returned to her parents’ house the next morning, the police were there. Gerald disappeared quickly, leaving Charlene to deal with investigators’ questions. She and her boyfriend had gone to a movie the night before, she said; they’d driven his red Triumph. When detectives reminded her that the Triumph had been parked in front of the house all night, she said they’d gotten so drunk she couldn’t remember which car they’d taken. The detectives left deeply suspicious.
Recording her flat denial of the incident. She also gave her name as “Mrs. Stephen Styles”, a false identity Gallego had secured by stealing a policeman’s I.D. card, using the vital information to request a ‘duplicate’ birth certificate and driver’s license for himself. Gerald decided that Craig Miller’s body, which he’d taken no trouble to conceal, had to be moved before police found it. He didn’t know, however, that it had already been discovered, and when he and Charlene went looking for it that night, it was nowhere to be found. they decided It was time to run. They drove to Reno where they ditched their car and boarded a bus for Salt Lake City.
Back in Sacramento the evidence was mounting. Craig Miller’s fraternity brother identified a picture of Gerald as the man he’d seen in the Oldsmobile with Craig and Mary Beth. Charles Williams told police that Stephen Feil’s real name was Gerald Gallego. The bullets removed from Craig Miller’s body matched those Gerald had shot into the ceiling of a bar where he had worked.
Charlene called her parents from Salt Lake City asking for money, which they wired to her. She and Gerald moved on to Denver, then to Omaha, Nebraska, where once again she called her parents. Reluctantly, they agreed to wire more money. This time, though, they told the FBI what they were doing. On November 17 agents were waiting at the Western Union office in Omaha, and they picked up the couple without a struggle.
Gerald and Charlene pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and murder. The killer team of man and wife hung tough for 18 months, but Charlene gave it up in mid-1982, 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 Stacy 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, exhibiting the same self-confidence that had brought him to his current state, decided to serve as his own attorney. His misadventure in defence 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 prosecution’s most effective witnesses. He did cross-examine Charlene however, for six days.
During the prosecution’s 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 she’d expressed doubt or displeasure, she testified that he shamed her, saying she wasn’t the “girl with heart” he’d thought she was. During his cross-examination, Gerald tried to undermine her credibility, offering as evidence a love note she’d written him after their capture. He portrayed her as an unstable drug addict and got her to admit to a lesbian affair she’d had while in jail awaiting the trial. On the final day of laborious, trivial questioning, Gerald came to his point. “Mrs. Gallego,” he said, “isn’t 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 he’d 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 Judd’s and Colley’s bodies hadn’t been found, the State’s best evidence was in the Redican/Twiggs case. Charlene had led investigators to a ball of white macramé rope in Gerald’s car. The rope matched that found binding the hands of the bodies of Redican and Twiggs.
Gerald’s second trial began on May 23, 1984 in Pershing County, Nevada. Gallego became the target of an unprecedented public subscription campaign, with California residents donating $23,000 to help defray the cost of his prosecution. This time he let a public defender, Gary Marr, handle his case. Again, the strategy was to try and discredit Charlene’s testimony. As star witness, she gave a detailed account of the last hours of Stacy 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 and was sentenced to death by gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison.
In the years since he was sentenced, Gerald Gallego vigorously proclaimed his innocence. In February 2001, Gallego appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court that his constitutional right to represent himself at trial was violated when self-representation was denied at his 1999 penalty hearing. Attorney Brent Kolvet told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Gallego was not really interested in representing himself as much as he wanted someone other than Public Defender Steven McGuire to represent him. Nor was Gallego cooperative during that penalty hearing. His behaviour, which included turning his back on the judge, warranted the need for an attorney to represent him, Kolvet said.
After Gallego’s 1984 death sentence for the kidnap-murders of Stacey Redican and Karen Twiggs was reversed on appeal, he was given a new penalty hearing in 1999. The new jury took less than an hour to sentence him again to death a second time for the murder of the two young women. Gallego was convicted of four killings. Charges were not filed in the cases of the other six murders. The Nevada Supreme Court rejected his appeal.
The skeletal remains found in Lassen County, CA were confirmed by DNA testing to be those of Brenda Judd, 14, and Sandra Colley, 13. The girls were killed by blows to the head in 1979 after being abducted in Reno at the Washoe County Fair. Their remains were found in Nov. 1999 along U.S. Highway 395 some 25 miles north of Reno. Gallego denied the killings and was not tried for their deaths. His wife Charlene had told police about the abduction and murder.
Charlene Gallego, known since the mid-80s by her maiden name of Charlene Williams, was released from a Nevada prison in July 1997 at age 40. While in prison, she extensively studied psychology, business and Icelandic literature. She did not tell authorities where she was headed, but agreed to register as a felon wherever she took up residence. Mercedes Williams, who raised the son Charlene bore in prison, said Charlene had left California and would not return.
In March 2002 Gerald Gallego was moved from Ely State Prison’s death row to the medical centre. On July 18 he died at the Nevada prison system’s regional medical centre, he was 56. Cause of death was rectal cancer which had spread to his liver and lungs. The medical director described him as a “very quiet individual. He was very reasonable about no extra treatment or resuscitation efforts”. Gallego made no final statements, had no visitors and was heavily sedated when he died.
In 2013 it was discovered that Charlene Williams had returned to the Sacramento area and had been there for 15 years, had changed her name to Mary and lives with her husband Daniel. She says she changed her name to hide from Gallego and his family, fearing for the safety of her family. During an interview she stated: “I did not kill any of them”. She says she never even wanted to be a part of the killings. “No, for God’s sake no. No I never did. I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if I did”. Williams is sticking with the story she told on the stand three decades ago, claiming it was all Gallego. “He is just one sick bastard, he was“, “I would’ve done anything I could if I could’ve stopped him. I know I couldn’t have stopped him; I tried to stop him”. “I put him on death row. Am I proud of that? Yes I am,” said Williams.
Williams says, her past keeps her prisoner. “I see it everyday. I always see it; it never goes away. There isn’t one more than the other. They’re all horrible, horrible memories, every single one”. Williams insists she never agreed to Gallego’s plans. Yet, the couple’s trail of terror, which began in 1978, continued for two years, in three different states, and claimed 10 victims as well as an unborn child. The crime spree was dubbed the ‘Sex Slave Murders’. She says Gallego controlled her with fear, threatening to kill her family, raping and abusing her.
She organized and operates two charities, ‘Heart of the Matter’ and ‘Gold Country for the Troops’, and spends her time soliciting people and businesses to donate to her causes. Now more than ever, Williams says she’s dedicated to giving back, especially to the military after losing a family member to war. “He was a very special, special person”, “I’ve always wanted to make up for the past one way or the other, but that isn’t why I’m doing it. It’d be a lie to say that isn’t part of it, because I’d do anything in the world to make up for it, anything in the world.”
Williams says while she can’t undo the past, she’s determined to prove she belongs among the very same people, who decades ago, feared they would be her next victim. “It isn’t so much that I really changed, it’s just so much that I was finally able to be myself”. Charlene claimed that she was also a victim when she said, “There were victims who died, and there were victims who lived. It’s taken me a hell of a long time to realize that I’m one of the ones who lived”. She also claimed that she “tried to save some of their lives.”
Many believe Gallego never killed Williams because she was his partner in crime.
“We had this sexual fantasy, see, so we just carried it out. I mean, like it was easy and fun and we really enjoyed it, so why shouldn’t we do it?” – Charlene Gallego
If you want to watch a documentary on Charlene And Gerald Gallego then just check out the video below: