Killer says he’s sorry before being sentenced to prison

By Heather J. Carlson

MANTORVILLE — Standing before a Dodge District Court judge, Hector Manuel Medrano tearfully apologized Monday for murdering Jose Tapia Gallegos.

"I hope and pray that some day the Gallegos family, but also my family and the community of Dodge Center, will find it in their hearts to forgive me for my thoughtless and heartless act," Medrano said.

Moments later, Judge Lawrence Agerter sentenced Medrano to life in prison for murdering Gallegos and to pay $4,000 in restitution.


"This was all senseless," Agerter told Medrano. "You destroyed a life, and you’ve destroyed your own life."

Medrano, 38, of Rochester, was convicted in February by a Rice County jury of stabbing and strangling 50-year-old Gallegos in the victim’s Dodge Center house. He stored Gallegos’ body in the basement for more than a week before dumping it in rural Goodhue County.

Gallegos’ 23-year-old nephew, Salvador Villa Gallegos, also faces first-degree murder charges for allegedly helping Medrano murder his uncle. He has yet to enter a plea.

Members of the victim’s family traveled hundreds of miles for the chance to speak in court and watch Medrano be sentenced. Among them was the victim’s brother, Vincente Gallegos who came to Minnesota from California.

He told the judge his family has suffered unimaginable pain in the wake of his brother’s death.

"This is something I do not wish on anyone else because you do not know what it is to live with the uncertainty of not knowing (if my brother is alive) and searching for him with the hope of finding him alive," Vincente Gallegos said. "Sometimes I ask myself how much did he suffer during this atrocious crime. I ask myself the reasons why (he was murdered), and I do not find any answer."

He asked the court to impose the maximum sentence on Medrano and emphasized he was not looking for revenge — only justice.

"I do not want other families to suffer what my family and my brother’s family suffered," he said.


A Spanish interpreter read a statement from Gallegos’ wife, Elba Cruz Gonzalez who recalled how the family had dreamed of being reunited. Now she and her daughters are struggling financially and emotionally in the wake of her husband’s murder.

"Now I am left alone with three girls to face the world, to face life without him by our side," Gonzalez said in the statement.

Since her husband’s murder, Gonzalez said, she has struggled with depression and anxiety, and one of her daughter’s has attempted suicide.

"We suffer much — especially in his absence. There is no way to get over the impact," Gonzalez said in her statement.

When Medrano rose to speak, he asked for a moment of silence. The courtroom obliged, and for a moment it was quiet except for the clincking of Medrano’s shackles. He then apologized to his victim’s family.

He said, "There is no sentence you can impose on me that compares to the sentence I will impose on myself."

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