NORFOLK — A sailor assigned to the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush entered a guilty plea Friday for trying to hire a hit man to murder his estranged wife for $10,000.
But Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) Airman Uriel Gerardo-Olivas also told the judge that she wasn’t even his final target.
He wanted her dead to collect the $100,000 government life insurance payout and spend it on another hit to slay a superior on the carrier he said bullied him and other junior sailors.
And his estranged wife heard it all inside the courtroom here.
“I intended to kill my wife,” said Gerardo-Olivas, 25. “I was wrong for what I did. I hope that one day she can forgive me and, if not, I understand.”
As part of his pretrial agreement, the lanky sailor from Hillsboro, Oregon, admitted to one specification of attempted murder and prosecutors dropped four other charges — aggravated assault, communicating a threat, abusing marijuana and larceny.
Judge Cmdr. Hayes C. Larsen sentenced Gerardo-Olivas to 25 years in prison, reduction to E-1 and a dishonorable discharge. But 15 years of the sentence will be suspended if Gerardo-Olivas follows the terms of the agreement.
Without the plea deal, the sailor risked a life sentence without the chance for parole.
Because he had accrued 378 days in pretrial confinement, he’ll serve less than nine more years behind bars.
During the sentencing phase of the trial, prosecutor Lt. Michaela Reardon called Gerardo-Olivas “cold blooded“ and “a danger to society” who had plotted two brutal murders.
But his civilian defense attorney, Noah Weisberg, painted a portrait of a man forced into desperate measures by an unidentified electrician’s mate first class on board the Bush who tormented the airman and caused his promising Navy career to unravel.
Weisberg said that Gerardo-Olivas joined the Navy on Sept. 11, 2013, to serve his country and appeared to be a model sailor, excelling in boot camp and graduating at the top of his "A" school class of 50.
Weisberg pointed to evaluations after he reported to the Bush in early 2014 that described Gerardo-Olivas as “outstanding and dependable," a sailor with "unlimited potential.” The attorney said that began to change a year later, when the petty officer allegedly began physically and mentally abusing him and other junior shipmates.
Gerardo-Olivas testified that he and two other airmen took their complaints up the chain of command, but Navy leaders sided with the petty officer.
“No one would ever believe an airman,” he said. “What I said didn’t matter.”
Gerardo-Olivas told the judge that for the next 2 1/2 years he endured almost daily abuse from the more senior sailor.
At the same time, Gerardo-Olivas started dating the woman who would become his wife.
She told the judge that she fell in love with Gerardo-Olivas, who wooed her with flowers, but over time their relationship degenerated into “my absolute nightmare.”
Navy Times does not identify victims of domestic abuse.
She described his frequent infidelities and their inevitable reconciliations, a cycle that repeated itself “over and over again."
While he stayed in Norfolk, she continued to reside in Washington and work as a flight attendant. They never lived together for long stretches of time, she said.
Despite his string of other women, they agreed to marry in early 2017.
It was a stressful, yo-yo romance, she said, and she later demanded a divorce.
In the meantime, Gerardo-Olivas had picked up with another woman.
He told the judge that the petty officer who constantly bullied him threatened to “kill me, my girlfriend and daughter" in early 2018.
Gerardo-Olivas said that he began sleeping with a gun. He contemplated suicide but finally decided that the first class “had to be stopped" and he wanted the petty officer’s life to end violently.
But he couldn’t stomach the thought of murdering him with his own hands.
“I needed a hit man to do what I couldn’t,” Gerardo-Olivas said.
He approached a fellow airman and asked if he knew someone who could do the dirty work.
But his fellow sailor alerted his chain of command and he was soon converted into a Naval Criminal Investigative Service informant, Gerardo-Olivas said.
It was then that Gerardo-Olivas said he concocted the plot to have his spouse murdered to fund the contract for the second hit. He decided to share it with his fellow airman.
Saying that he “knew someone,” the airman arranged for a man he called “Mike” to meet with Gerardo-Olivas on July 6, 2018.
It was his wife’s birthday.
At the end of the Independence Day weekend, Gerardo-Olivas dropped his parents off at Norfolk International Airport and he drove to his rendezvous with a hit man.
The two met in the parking lot of Main Gate Movies 10, a theater close to the Norfolk Main Navy Exchange.
“Mike” was an undercover NCIS agent.
A video of the transaction played out in the courtroom. It showed Gerardo-Olivas with a scruffy beard entering the agent’s car.
The two men bumped fists and Gerardo-Olivas handed him an envelope stuffed with $500 in cash — a 10 percent down payment on his wife’s hit — plus photos of her and a detailed description of where to find her.
“He told me that $5,000 was too low, so I raised it to $10,000,” Gerardo-Olivas said.
The man asked Gerardo-Olivas how he wanted his wife to die, and even offered to rape her.
“Do whatever you want to do. I don’t care,” Gerardo-Olivas replied.
But Gerardo-Olivas told the judge the man’s harsh words and grisly description of her death gave him second thoughts: “I decided that I really did not want to go through with this."
Gerardo-Olivas said he decided to let the hit man drive away and then ring him later to call off the murder and keep the cash.
But he never got the chance.
NCIS agents swarmed the car and arrested him.