Date: April 24, 2015
OCDA’S 7th ANNUAL VICTIMS’ RIGHTS MARCH & RALLY HONORS CRIME VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS
SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) hosted the 7th Annual Victims’ Rights March & Rally today in remembrance of murdered victims, in celebration of surviving victims, and in honor of victims’ rights. Hundreds ofvictims, family, friends, law enforcement, and community leaders marched from the District Attorney’s Office to the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana and laid flowers at the foot of a memorial wreath to honor and celebrate the lives of murdered and surviving victims.
The Orange County Victims’ Rights March & Rally was established in 2009 after decades of legal efforts to secure the rights of crime victims. In 1990, Proposition 115 increased defendant sentences and decreased the number of times a victim had to testify. In 1996, Megan’s Law required sex offender registration and gave parents and the community access to sex offender residence addresses in their neighborhoods. In 2000, Proposition 21 increased the punishments for serious and dangerous gang crimes. In 2004, Proposition 69 required felony arrestees to submit a DNA sample and Proposition 66, which would have allowed the release of dangerous third-strikers, was defeated. In 2006, Proposition 83, or Jessica’s Law, instituted mandatory 15 years to life sentences for certain serious sex offenses against children. In 2008, Marsy’s Law codified victims’ rights intothe California Constitution.
“Babe Ruth once said, ‘It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.’ We are never going to give up trying to protect innocent people who must live in gang neighborhoods through gang injunctions and we will never give up on going after gang members,” stated Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “We will continue to stand up for victims – of human trafficking, murder, sexual assault, and all the crimes that you are here speaking out against today. Criminals must understand, there will always be more of us than them, and good will triumph over evil.”
The March & Rally included a Presentation of the Colors by the Santa Ana Police Department Honor Guard, Pledge of Allegiance by Santa Ana Police Deputy Chief David Valentin, National Anthem by Deputy District Attorney Charlyn Bender, Moment of Silence by Senator Janet Nguyen, presentation of proclamation and a Board resolution by Orange County Supervisor Michelle Park Steel, Marsy’s Law updates by Dr. Henry Nicholas III, remarks by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and acknowledgement of victims’ rights organizations by Assembly members Young Kim and Matthew Harper.
The keynote speakers were Richard and Ryan Girgis, sons of murder victim Ariet Girgis, and Rosalia, a survivor of sexual assault.
Richard and Ryan Girgis
Richard and Ryan Girgis’ mother was murdered in 2004. Magdi Girgis, their father, was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for the 2004 solicitation-murder of his wife.
Prior to the murder, Magdi Girgis had a pending domestic violence case against him related to assaulting his wife, 55-year-old Ariet Girgis. A restraining order was issued, Ariet Girgis intended to divorce the defendant, and Magdi Girgis moved out of the couple’s Westminster home.Magdi Girgis, was a respiratory therapist and planned to murder the victim to avoid the cost of a divorce and loss of his medical license by receiving a felony conviction. As a result, Magdi Girgis solicited at least one person, Anthony Edward Bridget, to murder his wife.
A few days prior to Sept. 29, 2004, Ariet Girgis testified in a preliminary hearing in the domestic violence case.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 2004, Bridget and the other suspects are accused of entering Ariet Girgis’ home on Plum Street. Ariet Girgis and her 17-year-old son Ryan were the only family members in the home. Bridget is accused of binding and gagging Ryan and forcing him into a closet. At least one suspect is accused of murdering Ariet Girgis in her bedroom using a sharp object. Bridget and the suspects then fled the scene. After several minutes, Ryan heard a car drive away from the house, broke free of his ties, and immediately reported the crime to Westminster Police Department. Officers responded to the 911 call and discovered Ariet Girgis had been murdered.
At the Rally today, Richard Girgis told the crowd, “On September 29, 2004, two people broke into our home in Westminster, tied up my little brother, and brutally killed my mom. It was a senseless crime that tore our gamily apart. As much as we didn’t want to think it, my brother and I immediately suspected that our dad had something to do with it.” He ended his speech saying, “I have learned that life is short and the next day in not guaranteed. I spend my time cherishing my friends and family, and trying to make the most out of every bit of my time. My mom’s spirit is shining bright watching over us. She is happy knowing that nothing she did for us was in vain.”
“I didn’t hear the intruders until my door swung open and I was bound and tied up in my closet after a struggle. I am still haunted with my mother’s last words, ‘Take anything you want,’” said Ryan Girgis during the Rally. “My mother was a loving person, a true angel, sweet, caring, and a devoted mother to my brother and me. She taught my brother and me the value of hard work, education, and strength to overcome even her own death.”
Rosalia is a 16-year-old survivor of sexual assault. She was one of four victims of 31-year-old Rene Centeno, who was found guilty by a jury of sexually assaulting the minors, three under the age of 10, and sentenced to 155 years to life in state prison.
Between July and November 2010, Rosalia, then-11, lived with her mother, her three younger sisters, ages 4, 6, and 8, and a family friend, Centeno. Her mother would leave at 5:30 a.m. every weekday to go to work. Centeno would then sexually assault all four of the victims, moving from one to the next. After being sexually assaulted by the defendant, Rosalia had to watch him do the same to her sisters and console them when they complained of physical pain. The victims would then walk to school. Rosalia told her mother, who then contacted the Buena Park Police Department to report the crime.
“My three sisters and I lived through horrors that no child should ever face. While it was happening, I felt scared, alone and confused. I was also worried about my little sisters. I was 11 years old and I was trying to protect them but I was a child myself,” Rosalia told the crowd. “To those out there who, sadly, are going through or have gone through something rough, just know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can get through it. Even though the situation may be terrible at the time, it will get better.”
Co-Sponsors and Donors
The OCDA would like to extend special thanks to the OCSD and Santa Ana Police Department for their time, service, and support at the 2015 Victims’ Rights March & Rally.
For their contributions, the OCDA would also like to thank the Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys – Civic Action Committee, Orange County District Attorney Investigators Association, Community Service Programs, Inc., OC Parks, Dr. Henry Nicholas III, Mike Schroeder, Susan Kang Schroeder, and Starbucks at 17th Street and Grand Avenue. This event was hosted at no extra cost to the taxpayer.