YAKIMA, Wash. — A Washington man who took the life of a missionary student in 2016 in a random drive-by shooting has been sentenced to 27 years behind bars.
Saul Rios, 29, was sentenced on Thursday after entering a guilty plea on March 8.
In October 2016, Trae Oyler, 20, was returning from working with children at Madison Community Youth Center with three of his friends when Rios pulled up next to the car and fired three shots into the vehicle. Oyler was struck in the neck and died of his injuries, while the others were unharmed.
Oyler, who is from Pennsylvania but moved to Washington to attend Antioch Christian Training School (ACTS), was planning on taking the gospel to Thailand on a two-year mission. His family lives in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania and is part of the Old German Baptist Brethren Church, New Conference.
“One of Trae’s greatest passions was children and teaching them about Jesus, which is what he was doing before God called him home,” his obituary reads.
“Trae, as a child and even into adulthood, had a heart of compassion. He would cry when his siblings cried and when his mom cried, he would hug her and tell her, “It will all be ok. We can get through this,'” it states. “He was quick to reach out and encourage others. He was a listener, a counselor, and an empathetic friend to all. He felt the pain and trials of others deeply. He loved so well, unconditionally and without reservations.”
Nearly 40 of Oyler’s friends and family attended the sentencing of Saul Rios on Thursday. Oyler’s mother handed her son’s personal Bible to Judge David Elofson and requested that it be given to Rios.
“Would you assure that [Rios] gets this?” Jane Oyler asked, according to the Yakima Herald. “I know that’s what Trae would have wanted.”
She told Rios that she forgives him, but noted, “My forgiveness means little if you don’t seek God’s forgiveness.”
Kenneth Oyler said that forgiveness is a process for the family, and that weekends—when the pace of life slows—are the hardest.
He noted that Saul in the Bible was a persecutor of Christians, but God turned his life around. He wished the same for Saul Rios.
“I know that there are people in this room that would be willing to talk to Saul about God,” he said. “Because I know that’s what Trae would want.”
Oyler told KIMA-TV that nothing is really going to “fix” the fact that his son is dead, and said that he consequently didn’t sense any gratification or victory in Rios’ sentencing, adding, “The only victory that is going to come is if the people that sit in that courtroom today accept the Lord Jesus.”
“If we wanna get to the bottom of this, we’ve got to fix people’s hearts—and until we fix hearts, that courtroom is going to keep filling up,” he stated.
The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that one of their journalists spoke to Rios via a video connection following the sentencing, and Rios held up the Bible that Oyler’s mother had given him.
“I don’t know if they’re going to let me take this into prison,” he said, “[But] I’m going to seek God’s forgiveness.”