WWU student reportedly murdered in apartment by former boyfriend identified

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.

The 22-year-old female Western Washington University student who Rigoberto Galvan reportedly confessed to shooting multiple times and killing early Wednesday has been identified in Whatcom County Superior Court documents.

According to the documents, the victim was Stephanie Cresswell-Brenner, a former girlfriend of Galvan’s. She was a student at WWU, according to a letter to students from the school on Wednesday.

Cresswell-Brenner was a senior Western student studying anthropology, according to a letter to students sent from the school Friday. She was preparing to graduate, and was planning to become a physician’s assistant, her family told

Galvan, who lived in Burlington, was a junior at WWU, according to WWU spokesperson Paul Cocke. Galvan was not enrolled for summer quarter classes and last attended classes during winter quarter 2019, Cocke said.

University Police had no prior complaints or police reports regarding Galvan, Cocke said.

Galvan was charged Wednesday with aggravated first-degree murder (domestic violence) and first-degree burglary, according to court records.

Galvin’s bail was increased from $1 million to $5 million Thursday, Aug. 15, according to court documents.

Bellingham police responded at 12:20 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14, to an apartment in the 900 block of 20th Street. The first 911 call came from the occupant of the apartment, whom Cresswell-Brenner was visiting, court records show.

Galvan allegedly broke in through a second-floor balcony and was armed with a Glock 19 handgun. Galvan told the occupant to “run, because she is going to die,” court records state.

Cresswell-Brenner was seated on a couch in the living room watching television. Galvan allegedly shot the woman in the back 10 times “in what appears to be an execution-style murder,” according to court records.

Galvan unloaded his entire magazine and some stray bullets hit the couch and floor, records state.

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. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Witnesses told investigators that Cresswell-Brenner had recently broken up with Galvan.

“Clearly, Mr. Galvan acted with rage as he gunned down his ex-girlfriend. He reacted to the break-up by taking his firearm to confront her and then killing her almost immediately upon breaking into the apartment where she was visiting,” court records state.

After he shot Cresswell-Brenner, Galvan allegedly called 911 and told police where they could find him, the gun and the woman. He told the dispatcher “to send as many cops as you can,” records show.

Galvan identified himself to officers, calmly told them “I killed her” and was taken into custody without incident, according to court records.

Bellingham police officers found the Cresswell-Brenner critically injured by several gunshots, and attempted life-saving efforts but were unsuccessful. She died at the scene.

In a message to students sent Friday, Melynda Huskey, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services at WWU said Cresswell-Brenner’s death was a terrible loss for the community. A memorial date had not yet been set, according to Huskey’s email.

Huskey’s email went on to say that over the upcoming school year, WWU will provide opportunities to learn about intimate partner violence, how to support victims and survivors, and how to make positive change.

“As we mourn this loss, we also commit ourselves as a community of learners to take actions. Taking action to end violence is a powerful way to honor Stephanie,” Huskey’s email said.

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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

Western Washington University offered the following resources in a letter to students Wednesday:

▪ 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.

The spelling of Cresswell-Brenner’s name was corrected Aug. 16, 2019.

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.
Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.