Crime & Courts

Judge approves death sentence for Douglas Belt in 2002 slaying

By Ron Sylvester

The Wichita Eagle

Douglas Belt, accused in the decapitation murder of Lucille Gallegos.  Handout
Douglas Belt, accused in the decapitation murder of Lucille Gallegos. Handout

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Nov. 18, 2004.

Randy Baldonado called the man convicted of killing his sister a monster and an animal, as he asked a judge to approve a jury's sentence of death for Douglas Belt.

Sedgwick County District Judge Rebecca Pilshaw followed the jury's verdict and on Wednesday affirmed Belt's death sentence by lethal injection for the 2002 decapitation of Lucille Gallegos.

Wednesday's hearing drew emotional appeals from Gallegos' family, including Baldonado, a younger brother.

"Douglas Belt had the audacity to ask the jury to spare his life, " Baldonad o said. "Is his life any more precious than hers?"

Belt interrupted: "I didn't kill your sister."

Pilshaw told Belt to be quiet. He earlier had declined to address the court.

Lucille Gallegos, 43, was the sixth of 12 children. Her headless body was found in a vacant apartment in west Wichita, where she worked as a housekee per.

"I will never understand the mind of someone who kills - and kills with such cruelty, " said Baldonado, who serves in the Army in Fort Carson, Colo.

Earlier this month, when asking the jury to spare his life, Belt said some jurors probably thought him a "monster."

"You're much more than a monster, to use your own words, " Baldonado said. "You're an animal."

Baldonado also criticized the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which mislabeled a sample of Belt's blood in the early 1990s in connection with a series of rapes in Kansas and the Midwest. Belt's DNA later tied him to those rapes, when it was identified by Wichita police at the apartment where Gallegos died.

"Had the KBI not mislabeled that sample, my sister would still be alive, " Baldonado said.

Herman Gallegos, meanwhile, said he shared the grief he felt over his mother's death with the families of six women who testified during the murder trial about being raped. Belt's DNA was found in each of those cases.

"This man has caused so much pain for our family and others across Kansas who will have to live with their nightmares, " he said.

"Our mother was a great mother, grandmother, wife, sister and aunt, " Herman Gallegos said.

McPherson Police Chief Dennis Shaw was at the sentencing. He said he expects prosecutors in his county to pursue rape charges against Belt.

After the sentencing, Belt was taken to state prison in El Dorado. Since Kansas reinstituted capital punishment in 1994, eight men have been sentenced to death. Four of those sentences have been reversed by the state Supreme Court; action on re-sentencing is pending.

The Belt case took investigators six months to unravel. They had originally suspected Gallegos' abusive boyfriend. But led by Police Detective Tom Fatkin, the DNA testing eventually pointed to Belt.

"You have to give the police credit for keeping an open mind, " prosecutor Barry Disney said. "They used experience and patience to solve this case."