BURLEY — A witness at a Friday court hearing said he saw Gilberto Rodriguez dump Regina Krieger’s body in the Snake River 24 years ago.
Rodriguez was charged in February with first-degree murder in the 1995 death of the Burley teenager. Court documents at that time described similar witness accounts that led to Rodriguez’s arrest, but Friday’s court hearing was the first time witnesses in the case have publicly described what they saw and heard. The eight-hour preliminary hearing adjourned without lawyers finishing their arguments.
Witness Cody Thompson told the court he was 16 years old when he stopped at Rodriguez’s house one night and took a ride in a car with Rodriguez that ended in Krieger’s death and Thompson helping Rodriguez throw Krieger’s body into the river.
Thompson said that on Feb. 28, 1995, he waited in Rodriguez’s car in an alley while Rodriguez went to Krieger’s home. Thompson said he got out of the car twice and was ill and went over the Krieger’s fence to defecate while Rodriguez was inside the house. When Rodriguez came out of the house, Rodriguez had blood on him and said he had messed up and he needed to know if he could trust Thompson.
Thompson said Rodriguez then drove to the front of the house, went back inside and came out with a body wrapped in a blanket, covered in blood. He told Thompson to help him put the body in the back of the station wagon.
Thompson said they then went to a mutual acquaintance’s house, where they changed clothes and washed the blood off, and then they drove toward the river.
Thompson said he helped Rodriguez dump Krieger’s body into the river. Thompson said he asked Rodriguez to let him out of the car or drop him off somewhere multiple times. When Thompson finally went to his Rupert home, he barricaded himself in his room. He said his mother woke him up later because he was screaming in his sleep. He told the court he did not know the body was Krieger’s, who was his classmate, until he later saw her missing person flier at a gas station.
Thompson is serving a life sentence for rape. He also has felony convictions for burglary, intimidation of a witness and other charges. He testified in court wearing jail clothing and handcuffs.
Rodriguez’s attorney, Keith Roark, grilled Thompson about the multiple lies Thompson told police about the incident over the years and Thompson admitted his story had changed many times. He also admitted to previously lying in court under oath.
“I’m not gaining anything here,” Thompson said after a barrage of questions by Roark about his lack of honesty. “I’m putting my life in jeopardy.”
Thompson said he is afraid of Rodriguez and his family’s associations and that he and his family have been threatened. “I’ve been running from this for the past 24 or 25 years,” he said.
Roark said Thompson’s lies to the police always involved Rodriguez, so his testimony did not make sense.
Cassia County Prosecutor Doug Abenroth asked Thompson if he was lying now.
“No,” Thompson said.
Krieger was missing for weeks before officials found her body on the river bank.
A former forensic pathologist testified Friday that Krieger had more than one fatal wound but he said she likely died from an air embolism after her throat was slashed from ear to ear, which severed both jugular veins. She also had a deep penetrating wound to her heart that was likely caused after she was dead.
A forensic dentist testified that he identified her badly decomposed body through dental records.
Another witness, Carlos Tena, told the court he has known Rodriguez for 30 years as a distant relative and through their mutual work, which he said was dealing in firearms and illegal drugs for a Mexican cartel.
Tena said Rodriguez talked to him multiple times about “Gina” saying that it was unfortunate “that she had to be disposed of that way,” and that “the feds were poking at him again.”
Roark also questioned Tena’s stories and his record as a convicted felon.
Tena said he has not been promised anything in return for his testimony against Rodriguez.
The Cassia County hearing is scheduled to reconvene at 2:30 Monday. Roark said he may call Cassia County Sheriff Detective Robert Taylor to testify for the defense on Monday.