Army prosecutors allege Hawaii-based soldier bludgeoned wife in premeditated killing
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — Prosecutors say a 23-year-old Hawaii-based soldier bludgeoned and stabbed his estranged wife to death on their one-year wedding anniversary in January shortly after asking Google how many blows from a wooden bat are needed to kill someone.
Army prosecutors on Thursday laid out their case against Spc. Raul Hernandez Perez during an Article 32 hearing at Schofield Barracks on Oahu.
Hernandez Perez — an intelligence analyst assigned to the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade — was charged in February under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with murder and failure to follow a lawful order following the death of Selena Roth, 25.
Military police found her body on Jan. 13 in a large trash can in her home on Schofield Barracks.
An Article 32 hearing is required before a defendant can be referred to a general court-martial. It is similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court and held to assess whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a court-martial.
Hernandez Perez’s defense team waived the opportunity to present evidence during the hearing, conducted by Lt. Col. Burt Smith, the preliminary hearing officer.
For 90 minutes, Capt. Matthew Bishop presented a record of text messages, photos, social media posts, closed-circuit video footage and GPS tracking maps.
Hernandez Perez and Roth had been intimately involved while she was in a previous “open” marriage, Bishop said.
Roth divorced her first husband, with whom she had one daughter, and married Hernandez Perez in January 2020. The marriage was a rocky one, with frequent quarreling, Bishop said. At one point, Roth smashed her husband’s video game console and cellphone.
Hernandez Perez rekindled a relationship with a high school girlfriend from Florida. Roth was infuriated by the relationship, but she did not want to lose him, Bishop said.
“She is still in love with Spc. Hernandez,” Bishop said.
Hernandez Perez obtained a temporary restraining order against her, and he moved into the barracks.
Despite that, he continued to visit her for consensual sex, Bishop said. In a counseling letter, his first sergeant ordered him to cease the visits, but he continued them anyway, he said.
In October 2020, he filed for divorce, and Roth said in social media posts she was preparing to move back to the mainland. Nevertheless, the couple spent most of Jan. 9 together — their one-year wedding anniversary.
Prosecutors tracked signals from Hernandez Perez’s cellphone and gathered closed-circuit video from Walmart, Subway and a large mall, revealing that the pair had returned to the base around midnight.
They could be seen holding hands and hugging in the video. Roth had dubbed the time “Raul’s Day” in social media posts, Bishop said.
Bishop said investigators found that early on Jan. 10, Hernandez Perez had queried Google about whether a blow from a wooden bat could kill someone.
Friends and family did not hear from Roth after that evening, and on Jan. 13 her mother asked the base’s security force to check on her home, Bishop said. They found the door ajar. Upstairs, the bedroom’s four walls and ceiling were spattered with blood and blood stained the mattress.
Her body was discovered stuffed into a large-wheeled garbage receptacle and covered with the sheets from the bed and towels.
Based on the signal from Hernandez Perez’s phone, investigators learned that he had visited the home twice after leaving the morning of Jan. 10.
While there on Jan. 12, he searched Google for information about garbage pickup days for that household, Bishop said.
The Honolulu Medical Examiner Office’s autopsy determined Roth had died from blunt-force trauma to the head and four stab wounds — all from behind, Bishop said. She was hit with such force that her skull shattered.
Roth’s hands and arms showed no signs of cuts or bruises associated with defending oneself, he said.
Roth was a woodworker, and her garage was filled with various pieces of lumber. Prosecutors allege that the soldier beat her with a 2-inch by 2-inch board.
Closed-circuit footage shows Hernandez Perez disposing of a white garbage bag holding something long outside his barracks on the morning of Jan. 10.
The instruments used to kill Roth have not been found.
Bishop said Hernandez Perez’s actions indicate the killing was premediated. A conviction carries the possibility of a life sentence without parole.
Smith, the hearing officer, will submit a report to Col. Theodore Travis, commander of the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, who will decide whether Hernandez Perez will face court-martial.