$1 million bail set for man suspected in Happy Valley murder of woman he knew

Murder suspect makes first appearance in court

Rigoberto Galvan, 22, of Burlington makes his first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham, Wash., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. He was arrested earlier in the day on suspicion of first-degree murder.
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Rigoberto Galvan, 22, of Burlington makes his first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham, Wash., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. He was arrested earlier in the day on suspicion of first-degree murder.

A 22-year-old Burlington man who reportedly told police that he shot and killed a 22-year-old female Western Washington University student who was his former girlfriend early Wednesday, Aug. 14, at her Happy Valley apartment, is being held in Whatcom County Jail on $1 million bail.

Rigoberto Galvan has been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree burglary, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Richey said during Galvan’s first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon.

“At this point, your honor, I believe that both the proof is evident and the presumption great, because the defendant has admitted to the crime — he admitted that he had killed his girlfriend,” Richey said, arguing that Galvan be held without bail. “Nobody can predict how a person will react to the filing of these charges or the future these charges bring. The only thing we really know about this defendant is how he reacted when he had been spurned by his lover.”

Defense attorney Adrian Madrone argued before Whatcom County Superior Court Commissioner Alfred Heydrich that bail should be set for Galvan, suggesting $500,000, based on Galvan being a 22-year-old who had attended WWU and was living at home with his parents in Burlington.

“Yes, the charges and allegations are quite serious, however, we have to note that Mr. Galvan, himself, called 911, reported what had occurred and then waited for law enforcement to respond and made no effort to flee,” Madrone said. “He was very cooperative with law enforcement, once they made contact with him.”

Heydrich set Galvan’s bail amount at $1 million and set his next appearance in court for Friday, Aug. 23.

Whatcom County Court Commissioner Alfred Heydrich speaks to Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Richey during the first appearance of Rigoberto Galvan in Whatcom County Superior Court Wednesday. Galvan faces charges of first-degree murder and burglary. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

‘I killed her’

According to court documents filed Wednesday, Bellingham police responded at 12:20 a.m. to an apartment in the 900 block of 20th Street after receiving a call of a subject with a weapon.

The first call, documents state, came from a roommate of the victim, who said a man he called “Rigo” — later identified as Galvan — had appeared in his living room. The roommate believed that Galvan had entered the apartment through a second-floor balcony and that he had not been invited in.

The victim was seated on a couch in the living room watching television at the time, documents said, and when the roommate asked Galvan what he was doing in the apartment, Galvan displayed a handgun and told the roommate, “run, because she is going to die.”

At 12:21 a.m., Galvan called 911 and told police where they could find him and they needed, “to send as many cops as you can,” documents state. He also reportedly said he had killed the victim.

Galvan also reportedly told dispatchers his name and that he left the gun in the house.

Officers made contact with Galvan and took him into custody without incident, according to a Bellingham police press release.

Galvan identified himself to officers, according to court documents, and calmly told them “I killed her.” He also reportedly gave officers directions to the apartment and told them he threw the gun on a bed.

Bellingham police officers arrived at the apartment and found the victim critically injured by several gunshots, the release stated. Officers attempted life-saving efforts but were unsuccessful, and she died at the scene.

The Bellingham Police Department Investigations Division and a team of Crime Scene Investigators are continuing the investigation.

The victim’s name has not been released while next of kin is notified, the release said.

Bellingham police booked a 22-year-old Rigoberto Galvan into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder Wednesday morning, Aug. 14, 2019, in Bellingham, Wash. This is the 911 call from the incident.

‘Our hearts go out’

In a letter addressed to the Western community, WWU Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Melynda Huskey said the victim was a student at the school.

“Our hearts go out to the friends and families affected by this tragic news,” Huskey wrote. “In the days ahead, as we mourn the loss of a valued student and friend, you may find that you are experiencing grief, anger, frustration, and sorrow. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help or support.”

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Huskey offered the following campus support services:

The WWU Counseling Center for impacted students — 360-650-3164.

The Employee Assistance Program will help school employees — 877-313-4455.

Consultation and Sexual Assault Support (CASAS) offers confidential support for WWU students who have been impacted by violence — 360-650-3700, in Old Main 585B.

“I will continue to share information as it becomes available. In times of sorrow, our community’s strength and compassion are invaluable,” Huskey wrote. “Let’s extend comfort and kindness to one another.”

Rigoberto Galvan, 22, of Burlington, right, appears with defense attorney Adrian Madrone in Whatcom County Superior Court Wednesday. He was arrested earlier in the day for suspicion of first-degree murder. He allegedly climbed into an apartment through a window and shot a female victim. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald


If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault, you can contact the following local resources for free, confidential support:

Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services: 24-hour Help Line: 360-715-1563, Email:

Lummi Victims of Crime: 360-312-2015.

Bellingham Police: You can call anonymously at 360-778-8611, or go online at

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.