A Killer Couple

Sacramento’s history of prolific serial killers roaming our streets is bad enough, with the likes of Puente, Kibbe (the I-5 Strangler), Solomon, Corona, DeAngelo (the alleged Golden State Killer), Chase (the Vampire of Sacramento), and Leonard (the Thrill Killer), but when they team up, it makes for an exceptionally deadly outcome.

A husband and wife serial killing team is unusual, but history shows that these parings often use a lure and trap method to gain the trust of their intended victims before the unsuspecting prey are captured and killed. One such killer couple, George and Charlene Gallegos, terrorized Sacramento from 1978 to 1980, racking up ten victims during their sex slave killings.

George Gallegos never met his father. The elder Gallegos was serving a term in San Quentin at the time of his son’s birth and when he was released he skipped supervision and landed in Mississippi. Within a short time, he was convicted of killing two police officers and was the first man to die in that state’s gas chamber. George followed in his father’s criminal footsteps and racked up a number of arrests as a juvenile, including the rape of a six year old girl when he was thirteen.

He managed to get arrested twenty three times, and served terms in the California Youth Authority, and the California Department of Corrections for armed robbery. Relationships with women weren’t something that lasted. While he was thought to be a charismatic figure, he was divorced five times by the time he was thirty-two years old. The marriages were less than a few months in duration and all were marked with severe physical abuse committed by George Gallegos against his partners.

In 1977 George met Charlene in a Sacramento poker club and within weeks they were living together. From all accounts Charlene was an attractive woman from a traditional background. She was said to have a very high IQ–in the 160 range. Physical abuse continued, and he began expressing a dark fantasy to his wife, one that focused on keeping a sex slave.  The pair put a plan together to fulfill his fantasy.

On September 11, 1978, 17-year-old Rhonda Scheffler and her friend, 16-year-old Kippi Vaught, disappeared from after walking to the Country Club Shopping Center in Sacramento. Two days after they went missing, their bodies were found fifteen miles away. Both young women were sexually assaulted, beaten and died from gunshot wounds.

Later investigation (and Charlene’s testimony) would prove George sent his wife into the busy shopping mall to pick and lure two appropriate sex slaves back to his white Dodge van. Charlene found the two girls and reportedly offered them some pot. George was waiting in the van with a .25 caliber handgun. The two girls were tied up and driven away.

One June 24, 1979,  Gerald  wanted to abduct another sex slave. George and Charlene went to the Washoe County Fair, in Reno, where Gerald sent Charlene to find a girl. Charlene spotted fourteen-year-old Brenda Lynne Judd, and thirteen-year-old Sandra Kay Colley and approached them, offering money to place leaflets on the windshields of parked cars. The two girls quickly agreed and followed Charlene back to the van. Gerald waited in the van with a .44 caliber pistol. He forced them into the van and bound the girls’ feet and wrists. Charlene drove as he began to sexually assault the two young girls in the back of the van. Hours later, Gerald directed Charlene into the high Nevada desert. Once there, Gerald led the girls off one at a time, carrying with him a hammer and a shovel. He beat the girls to death and buried their remains in a deep hole. The bodies weren’t discovered until November of 1999–the pair were thought to have runaway from home.

On April 24, 1980, George woke his wife and told her he “I want a girl! Get up!” After driving around the Sacramento suburbs, he spotted two girls, seventeen-year-old Karen Chipman Twiggs, and seventeen-year-old Stacy Ann Redican, coming out of a book store near Sunrise Mall.  Charlene approached the girls and asked them to join her in the van on the pre-text of smoking some weed. The girls followed her back to the van, where Gerald waited for them with a .357 Magnum pistol. He commanded Charlene to drive and ordered the girls to undress. Gerald took turns raping and sexually assaulting them. After he was content, he again had Charlene drive to a secluded area in Nevada and led the girls, one at a time, into the woods carrying a hammer and a shovel. He forced Charlene to view the graves. She claimed that she saw movement but Gerald insisted that they were “good and dead.”

 On June 7, 1980, while traveling down the highway, Gerald and Charlene spotted a lone woman hitchhiking, twenty-one-year-old Linda Aguilar, who was four months pregnant at the time. The young woman took up the couple’s offer for a ride and got in the van. Charlene drove and Gerald was pointing his .357 at the pregnant woman. After a short drive, Gerald raped Linda, beat her with a rock, then to make certain she was dead he strangled her lifeless body. A subsequent autopsy would reveal that Aguilar was still alive when he buried her.

George and Charlene spent the day of July 16, 1980 drinking at the Sail Inn, a bar in West Sacramento.  Gerald was belligerent and loud that night, and at closing time came, they waited in the parking lot. When the bartender, Virginia Mochel came out Gerald forced her into the van with his .357.  This time he drove the van home rather than a remote location.  Charlene waited inside watching television, while he raped Virginia. After, Gerald made Charlene drive them to Clarksburg. While she drove, George strangled Virginia.  They dumped the body in southern Sacramento county.

On November 1, 1980, Gerald told Charlene, “I’m getting that feeling”, he did not need to explain further she knew exactly what he meant…. 

In the early morning hours of November 2, 1980, Charlene drove while the couple searched for the new victims. She parked at Arden Fair Mall in East Sacramento when 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. This was the first time the couple had attacked a male/female couple. It also marked a deviation from their pattern in that George didn’t wait for Charlene to lure the prey to him. Gerald got out of the car, walked right up to the couple, pulled out a .25 caliber handgun,  and ordered Miller and Sowers into the car. Friends of the young couple saw them get into the vehicle and wrote down the license plate number.

Charlene drove to Bass Lake in nearby El Dorado County where George pulled Craig Miller from the car. With Sowers watching, George shot Miller in the back of head and then fired two more shots into Craig’s head, as he lay lifeless on the ground. Gerald got back into the vehicle and ordered Charlene to drive to their apartment. Back at the apartment, Gerald took his new sex slave into the bedroom and raped her for hours. When he was done with her, he ordered Charlene to drive them to a rural area in Placer County. Once there, Gerald ordered Mary out of the car. He then shot her three times at point blank range.

When the couple didn’t return, the friend who witnessed them leaving with the strange couple, gave the vehicle information to the police. Craig Miller’s body was found the following day and the net closed around George and Charlene Gallegos. Officers secured a warrant and searched the home and the Gallegos vehicles. Ammunition and other suspicious evidence was found at the location and Charlene was the first to crack, laying out the eighteen month long murder spree.

In exchange for leniency, Charlene turned on her husband and provided a detailed accounting for all of the murders. George’s defense attorney tried, without much success, to discount the wife’s testimony and portray Charlene as a willing participant in the crimes. She claimed that George beat and threatened her to carry out her role in the abduction and murders.

Charges were filed against George Gallegos for the Miller and Sowers murders in California and for the Twiggs, Redican, Judd and Colley murders in Nevada. As the Judd and Colley bodies weren’t located, the prosecution focused on the deaths of Twiggs and Redican. Charlene was charged in the Nevada crimes only.

After a four month long trial in Sacramento, the jury took a mere three hours to return a guilty verdict. Gallegos was sentenced to death on June 21, 1983. He was extradited to Nevada and was again sentenced to death for the murders of Judd and Colley on June 25, 1984.

As part of a plea agreement, Charlene was sentenced to sixteen years and eight months in the Nevada State prison system. Part of the agreement was that she cooperate in the case against her husband. No other charges in any other jurisdiction would be filed against her.

Charlene was released from prison in August 1997 to an undisclosed location. George died of cancer in the Nevada State prison on July 18, 2002.

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