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Rodriguez sentenced to life in prison for 1995 murder of Burley teen

From the October crime report: Murder cases, mall shooting, drug busts and more series

BURLEY — Gilberto Flores Rodriguez will spend the rest of his life in prison for brutally killing a 14-year-old Burley girl in 1995.

Cassia County Judge Michael Tribe pronounced a fixed life sentence on Friday after a May jury found Rodriguez, 59, guilty of the first-degree murder of Regina “Gina” Krieger.

Tribe also issued a $5,000 civil penalty, waived court fees and left the issue of restitution open for 90 days.

During the hearing, Rodriguez said he has always been innocent of the crime.

“I take responsibility for what I do, but I didn’t do this,” Rodriguez said.

“Justice is not a concept that applies to some people and not others,” Rodriguez’s attorney, Keith Roark, said.

Roark said that justice was not served in court on Friday because Rodriguez is not guilty.

Roark said the case was not over and he will use all of the measures available to him to overturn the conviction.

Rodriguez did not fully comply with the presentence investigation because Roark said “he is so angry at the court, the community and police for the way he has been treated.”

The sentence came after emotional victim impact statements from Krieger’s mother, Rhonda Hunnel, her father, Daniel Krieger, and brother, Clifton Krieger.

A few minutes into Hunnel’s statement, Roark objected to her comments, but Tribe overruled the objection, allowing her to continue.

Hunnel said she had every mug shot taken of Rodriguez, but they had never met face-to-face until that moment.

“In February 1995 you took something I cherish. A piece of my heart. My daughter’s spirit surrounds me daily,” Hunnel said.

She said a former friend of Rodriguez’s testified in court that Rodriguez had told him he was haunted by Gina.

Hunnel said it was not Gina’s spirit that had been haunting him, but her.

She told Rodriguez that this time he would not be going to prison on drug charges, “but as a baby killer.”

Rodriguez previously served time in prison on drug charges.

Hunnel said Gina was not the only young person that he “infested with his evil ways.”

She said the night he killed Gina in her basement bedroom, slashing her throat and stabbing her in the heart, there was another person, “Jesus Christ,” in the room with him begging him not hurt his child.

He was also there to receive Gina’s spirit when Rodriguez ended her life, she said.

“I have served my purpose and Gina can finally rest in peace,” she said.

Daniel Krieger looked Rodriguez in the eye and said for years he’d wanted him dead.

He also asked Rodriguez to repent and said “God loves us all.”

Clifton Krieger wiped away tears as he told the court how his sister’s death when he was 12 years old impacted his life.

“I’ve waited for this day for a long time,” he said.

He told Rodriguez that he too had forgiven him long ago and had not wanted to see him put to death.

“You took my sister and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever went through,” Krieger said. “But I’m a stronger person because of it.”

Roark said there were several injustices that occurred during the court proceedings, including statements in affidavits that were false or omitted facts, witnesses that lied and were not credible and a juror that slept during some of the testimony.

Roark told the court that Lady Justice with her scales of justice on the wall behind Judge Tribe would be “offended” by what had occurred in the courtroom.

Hunnel said after the hearing that although there is resolution to the case “there will always be a piece of my heart missing.”

She is reminded daily of her daughter who is missing from her life.

Cassia County Prosecutor McCord Larsen said the people who helped bring the case to point of sentencing were too numerous to mention.

And Regina’s family’s tenacity, temerity and kindness, Larsen said, is unmatched.

“They inspire me and they pushed me,” he said. “Probably to my limit at times,” Larsen said.

“This case altered my view of victims in a positive manner,” Larsen said. “And hopefully, that will help me become a better prosecutor.”

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Related to this story

Gilberto Flores Rodriguez's first-degree murder case was placed in the hands of a 12-person jury on Tuesday afternoon after a weeklong trial, and the jury returned its guilty verdict just after 4 p.m.

Tena told the jury during the previous hearing that he’d had a conversation with Rodriguez at a Rupert pond where two young girls were fishing and one of the girls reminded Rodriguez of Krieger — and Rodriguez spoke of the murder to Tena.

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