Editor’s note: Rhonda Hunnel is the mother of Regina Krieger and the author of “Snake in the Grass, A Memoir,” which describes the 1995 disappearance and murder of her daughter. Gilberto Flores Rodriguez was arrested and charged with Krieger’s murder on Wednesday.
The phone call from the FBI November 2016 was the first big break I received after spending the past 20 years searching for help with Gina’s case. FBI Special Agent Chris Sheehan has been compassionate and consistent with answering my questions and made himself available at any time. The first time I spoke to Chris he said something to me that I will never forget: A mother always knows.
Now that the prosecuting attorney has the case file, I feel a bit uncomfortable because the man I have grown to trust is handing over my daughter’s case to those I do not trust.
Finally after 23 years, justice just might be served; however there is now the pain staking experience of working through our justice system if and when there is a trial.
The arrest might not result in prosecution, prosecution might not result in convictions, and conviction we all know do not consistently result in a stiff sentence in the criminal justice system.
Regina will become the body, the victim or the deceased and will rarely be referred to by her name. Her character might be called into question during a trial, which will be difficult and painful to hear.
I will probably be told to show little or no emotion in the courtroom so that I will not unduly “influence the jury.” After all these years of waiting and finally coming face to face with the alleged killers, hearing the painful details of her death most likely will produce some emotions.
I might be called as a material witness by either the prosecution or defense, if this happens I might not be able to stay in the courtroom for part or all of the trial. This again would be necessary to not unduly influence the jury with a mother’s pain.
The trauma imposed by the justice system probably won’t end once the convicted murderer is sentenced; I might learn that the criminal sentencing imposed and ordered will not be a sentence served. There will be ongoing appeals and parole hearings that will trigger stressful reactions occasionally.
These are of course worst-case scenarios and are my way to prepare myself for a justice system not set up to serve or protect this mother of a murdered child. I will take a stand, I will be strong, I will be brave and I will give it to God.
Justice will happen for Gina and I will be her voice from the grave!
Some may say Gina’s family will finally have closure. Closure is the incorrect word to use. Closure would be having my daughter back in my arms. As long as I live there will always be a hole in my heart and only memories will reside there. I see it like this: I can now turn the page and not have to go to the beginning anymore. I believe a second book is in my near future.