WESTMINSTER — Their faith was shaken, but never broken.
Those were the words of Richard and Ryan Girgis, the sons of Ariet Girgis, a Westminster woman authorities allege was the victim of a contract killing directed by her husband in 2004. | PHOTOS
"It's been 8 1/2 years," said Richard, the eldest of the 55-year-old victim's sons. "We didn't ever lose faith, but after that long we began to wonder if we'd ever see an arrest."
Though they always suspected their father, Magdi Girgis, was the person responsible for their mother's horrific slaying, finally learning of their dad's arrest last week made for a stunning and bittersweet moment, the brother said.
"It's still soaking in," Ryan, a Long Beach resident, said, adding that he only wished his grandparents, and his mother's parents, had lived to see the arrest.
"It put a lot of stress on them, because it was their daughter," he said. "No parents should ever have to see something like that happen to their child."
It was greed and control that allegedly drove the former respiratory therapist to the hire hit men to stage a home invasion robbery at the family's home on Plum Street, police and prosecutors said at a press conference held Tuesday at the Westminster Police Station.
He had his wife killed Sept. 24, 2004, so that he would not lose any money in their pending divorce nor his medical license amid a felony charge of domestic violence, authorities said.
"The case hit a dead end early on, but we never gave up on it," Westminster Police Sergeant Cameron Knauerhaze said.
Girgis was found guilty in the domestic violence case, the sergeant said. His wife testified just a few days before she was silenced by the killers.
Girgis' conviction resulted in a year behind bars and five years probation, his sons said.
Then 22 and 17 years old, the brothers quickly figured out their father had something to do with their mother's murder and cut off all ties to the man they remembered as rigid and controlling.
Ryan was the only person home with his mom when the incident occurred. The younger of the brothers was bound and gagged by one suspect and forced into a closet. The Fountain Valley High School senior was eventually able to work free of his restraints and called 911 for help. But his mother, who he and his brother described as loving and gentle, was already dead in her bedroom.
"Afterward, when you put all the pieces together, it was clear it was a setup," Ryan said.
He did not say much else about that day, clearly upset by the memories, but he and his brother, who had received his nursing license not long before the killing, both said they and their mom's family maintained a strong belief that her killers would one day be brought to justice.
"She was a very sweet lady, just a delicate person and very nurturing," Richard said.
"She was very humble," Ryan added.
Both men said their mother was a devout Coptic Christian who regularly attended her church.
Both of their parents were born in Egypt and their mom helped their dad move to the United States after they wed, the brothers said.
They learned of their father's arrest last Friday. Upon receiving the news, Richard quickly headed from his home in Sacramento to Ryan's Long Beach home. Both men spoke at the press conference Tuesday, hopeful that media coverage of their father's arrest would aid police and prosecutors in the ongoing investigation.
"There are additional suspects whose arrests are imminent," Knauerhaze said, adding that the names were being withheld until their capture.
Girgis owned various rental properties in North Long Beach over the years, and he was comfortable in that community, Knauerhaze told the Press-Telegram on Monday.
He was at a business in the area, on Atlantic Avenue near of the San Diego (405) Freeway, when he was captured with the help of Long Beach Police Department officers, detectives said.
Because of his familiarity with Long Beach, Knauerhaze said, it is likely there are people in the area who have information that can help in the ongoing case.
A $50,000 reward has been offered by the Governor's Office and an additional $5,000 has been added by the Carol Sund/Carrington Foundation for such information, he said.
Though Girgis was formally charged at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana on Tuesday, he did not enter a plea and his arraignment was postponed until March 15, prosecutors said.
The 60-year-old was charged with one count of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of false imprisonment by violence. The charge includes sentencing enhancements for murder for financial gain and to prevent testimony and the case qualifies as a special circumstances murder case, meaning Girgis could face life without the possibility of parole or death if convicted on all counts, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
Anyone with information about the slaying is asked to call the Westminster Police Department at 714-898-3315, or Supervising District Attorney Investigator Randy Litwin at 714-347-8492. Tipsters who wish to remain anonymous can call 855-TIP-OCCS (847-6227) or go to www.occrimestoppers.org.