‘I had to get rid of her’: Hawaii-based soldier admits beating wife to death with baseball bat
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — A 23-year-old Hawaii-based soldier pleaded guilty Monday to the premeditated murder of his wife in January as part of a plea deal that calls for at least 50 years in prison.
During a hearing at Schofield Barracks, Spc. Raul Hernandez Perez calmly described how he crushed the skull of Selena Roth, 25, with four blows of a baseball bat as she slept in her home on Schofield.
As he stopped swinging the weapon and gazed down upon her, he said he saw her chest rising and falling.
“I panicked because I thought she was still alive,” Hernandez Perez said. He went downstairs to the kitchen, got a knife, climbed the stairs and stabbed her four times. He stuffed her body into a large garbage can and covered it with trash.
Military police discovered her body three days later after family members called the base for a welfare check.
Hernandez Perez also pleaded guilty to disobeying his first sergeant’s order to have no contact with Roth.
The plea agreement reached between the soldier and the prosecution calls for a prison term of 50 to 65 years.
Col. Mark Bridges, a judge in the 25th Infantry Division Staff Judge Advocate’s Office, will determine the length of imprisonment after hearing sentencing testimony from members of Roth and Hernandez Perez’s families. His parents are expected to testify Tuesday.
Roth’s older sister, Aubrey Rangel, described how the murder has decimated the lives of her parents and her other brothers and sisters.
“Our family is not the same; we will never be the same,” Rangel said. Family members are prone to panic attacks, with some no longer able to hold jobs or find joy in living life, she said.
Sobbing at times, Rangel described how the sight of trash cans has become a nightmare trigger for the family.
‘None of us can look at trash cans,” she said.
The victim’s mother, Joanne Roth, recalled how she and her husband adopted Roth as a baby and how she excelled in school.
“Her goal in high school was to letter in every sport – and she pretty much did,” Joanne Roth said.
She and other family members knew something was wrong when Roth stopped taking calls or responding to other messages after Jan. 9, Joanne Roth said.
“To be murdered by a stranger is tragic,” she said. “But to be murdered by someone who’s supposed to love you is heartbreaking.”
Hernandez Perez and Roth married on Jan. 9, 2020, but their marriage was rocky, with frequent quarreling, according to evidence presented by prosecutors during an Article 32 hearing in May. He filed for divorce in October 2020 and later obtained a restraining order against her.
He moved out of their home and into barracks at Schofield.
Despite all that, the couple got together for their first anniversary on Jan. 9, went to a movie and were out late.
Hernandez Perez told the court he was too tired to drive home and stayed the night. He woke up about 4 a.m. and began thinking about the divorce.
“I kept getting angrier and angrier,” he said, describing the “tipping point” as when he recalled Roth had threatened to kill his mother as retribution for the divorce.
“I thought I had to get rid of her in some other kind of way,” he said.
Hernandez Perez thought of the baseball bat downstairs. Shortly afterward, it was in his hands.
“I stood over her,” he said. “I thought to myself that I’m not the kind of person who could commit a crime like this.”