A 22-year-old Burlington man who reportedly told police that he shot and killed his former girlfriend, a 22-year-old Western Washington University student, in her apartment is being held in Whatcom County Jail on $5 million bail.

Rigoberto Galvan was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree burglary Wednesday, according to court records. His bail was initially set at $1 million but rose to $5 million Thursday as new details about the case emerged.

At a Galvan’s first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Richey argued that he should be held without bail.

“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. “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.”

Help for domestic-violence survivors

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you have been abused by an intimate partner, you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TTY). A variety of agencies in the area offer assistance, including confidential shelters, counseling, child therapy and legal help. For a list of resources, visit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence's website.

Defense attorney Adrian Madrone argued 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.”

“I killed her”

According to court documents filed Wednesday, Bellingham police responded at 12:20 a.m. Wednesday to an apartment in the 900 block of 20th Street, which is in the Happy Valley neighborhood, 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.”

Prosecutors allege Galvan 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 clip and some stray bullets hit the couch and floor, records state.

Witnesses told investigators that the woman 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.

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 news 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 lifesaving 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.

“‘Our hearts go out”

In a letter addressed to the Western community, Melynda Huskey, WWU vice president for enrollment and student services, 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.”

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.”