Convicted killer gets life sentence in death of woman


An illegal immigrant who raped and killed a Salem woman in 1991 will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Marion County Judge Dennis Graves issued the sentence Monday after a jury earlier this month found Bonafacio Merino-Apolinar guilty of murder in the death of Janet Unruh, who was 67.

Merino-Apolinar, 37, entered the U.S. illegally three times and was convicted of criminal harassment, first-degree sex abuse and dealing cocaine before he was arrested in 2005 for aggravated murder in Unruh's death.

"You have never taken responsibility for your criminal conduct until today, and instead have blamed others or denied you were responsible, as you did in this case," Graves said.

After Unruh's death, Merino-Apolinar returned to Mexico, but came back to Oregon illegally and was convicted of criminal harassment in 1992, Graves said.

Testimony during that conviction showed Merino-Apolinar physically abused his wife, refused to allow her to leave their home and didn't give her any money to help raise their three children, Graves said.

In 1995, Merino-Apolinar was convicted of sexually abusing a 7-year-old girl. He was ordered to complete sex offender treatment but failed to comply with court orders and was arrested in January 1997 for failing to appear in court.

In March 1997, Merino-Apolinar was convicted of delivering cocaine and served more than two years in prison.

Merino-Apolinar was deported in 2000, but returned again illegally under the name Juan Valentin Rivera.

Oregon State Police investigator Karen Hays reviewed cold case files before she retired in 2000 and linked Merino-Apolinar to Unruh's killing using improved DNA analysis.

"It's a long time coming," said Unruh's daughter Barbara Loucks, who lives in Medford. "I'm glad it's over &

it'll never be over, but at least he's been caught. He's not out on the streets any more."

Merino-Apolinar read a statement to the court on Monday. "It's not easy to bear a burden for 16 years. I've always had it on my mind and could never forget."

Merino-Apolinar first came to Oregon illegally in 1989. He said he had relatives in Brooks and worked in strawberry fields. On the night of the killing, Merino-Apolinar said, he was drunk and stupid and never thought he'd regret his acts for the rest of his life.

"Although I'm going into the shadows, I feel free because I will be paying for my crimes," he said.

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