An Army intelligence analyst pleaded guilty Monday to killing his estranged wife in her on-base home after disobeying a no-contact order and spending the night with her following their first wedding anniversary.
Spc. Raul Hernandez-Perez, 24, testified during his court-martial that he became enraged while thinking about their divorce proceedings and actions that led to the split so he hit 25-year-old Selena Roth in the back of the head with a wooden baseball bat, then stabbed her in the back after noticing that she was still breathing.
“As I stood over her I thought I wasn’t the sort of person to commit a crime such as this,” Hernandez-Perez said during a hearing at Wheeler Army Airfield as the military judge, Col. Mark Bridges, went over his plea deal.
He initially pleaded not guilty but withdrew that on Monday and admitted to both charges as part of a plea deal.
Roth’s body was found by CID investigators after her family called for a welfare check when they became concerned that she was not answering her phone. Investigators also discovered blood spatters in the bedroom and signs that Hernandez-Perez tried to clean up evidence with a rug cleaner.
As part of his plea deal, Hernandez-Perez will be sentenced to a minimum of 50 years and a maximum of 65 for the murder charge and up to one year for willfully disobeying a noncommissioned officer. He will be given credit for the time served since his arrest on Jan. 13. Sentencing was expected on Tuesday.
The court also heard from Roth’s family members on Monday, with multiple relatives describing her as an animal lover and an advocate against sexual harassment.
At the time of her death, Roth, the youngest of nine siblings, had a Facebook profile picture recognizing Army Spec. Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old soldier murdered at Fort Hood, Texas, last year. Guillen’s death galvanized a movement to end violence against women in the military.
Relatives also said they had a hard time looking at trash bins after learning that Roth’s body was found in one.
“Our family is not the same,” Aubrey Rangel, Roth’s sister, said. “It will never be the same. We will never have a full family photo.”
During his testimony, Hernandez-Perez said he met Roth, who was an Army veteran, before moving to Hawaii while they were in the same advanced individual training unit. They reconnected in February 2018 after both moved to Oahu, the court heard. In January 2020, the pair got married and moved in together.
Hernandez-Perez and Roth began having marital difficulties in the the fall of 2020, which Bridges characterized as “fights.” Hernandez-Perez eventually moved out and on Nov. 6, 2020 his superior, 1st Sgt. Angela McDonald, ordered him not to have any more contact with Roth, as the disputes escalated and the couple initiated a divorce, according to court documents.
‘Final Tipping Point’
But on Jan. 9, Hernandez-Perez and Roth spent their one-year anniversary together despite McDonald’s orders. They were seen together on video at the Pearlridge Center after going to a movie, according to the Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Special Agent Aaron Carter, the lead investigator on the case.
Hernandez-Perez said he was “too tired” to go home and ended up staying the night. He then woke up at 4 a.m. and began getting angry at Roth, he said.
“I started thinking of what she had done,” Hernandez-Perez said in the packed military courtroom, claiming that Roth had once “sent cow manure to his family.”
He said his “final tipping point” was thinking about the time Roth allegedly said she’d kill his mother if he left her.
“I thought I had to get rid of her in some kind of way,” Hernandez-Perez said, describing how he went downstairs to grab a wooden baseball bat before returning to the bedroom.
She began to stir so he panicked and hit her in the back of the head four times with the bat. Roth was still breathing so he left, grabbed a knife and stabbed her four times in the back, he said.
“I realized there was no more further movement and I had killed my spouse,” he testified.
Carter said that Hernandez-Perez showed no emotion when he was brought in for questioning and “smiled, joked, and played on his phone.”
The special agent added that upon learning his wife was dead, Hernandez-Perez never asked how she was found but instead simply asked, “Am I in trouble?”
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