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Man charged with murdering mother

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The son of a woman who was found dead inside her Tamuning home was picked up and arrested by Criminal Investigation Division agents on Monday night. Allan Aloan Agababa is being held behind bars on $1 million cash bail, accused of murdering his mother.

The 26-year-old Agababa appeared before Magistrate Judge Alberto Tolentino this afternoon via videoconference charged with the murder of 55-year-old Shelley Bernstein. When the judge asked him If he had a lawyer, Agababa responded, "I don't know if my family was trying to get me one or not. So I have no idea." Tolentino then asked if he is currently working, which he said he was not, at which point Tolentino said the court would appoint the public defender to represent him in this case.   

The United Airlines flight attendant was found murdered inside her Tamuning apartment back on August 13. Authorities initially thought she had been shot in the head but an autopsy confirmed she died from single blunt force trauma. The magistrate's complaint states that there were no signs of forced entry and no signs of a struggle. Medical examiner Dr. Aurelio Espinola believed that the body appeared to be staged to conceal the head wound.  Upon inspection of the body, Bernstein was also found with six adhesive patches of prescribed medicine on her left side.  Further investigation revealed that the patches were an opiate prescribed for chronic back pain.  Bernstein had just received the prescription seven days before and was only to take one packet every three days, but at the time of her death she was found with six on her body. 

The medical examiner found that the amount on her would result in an overdose.

Dr. Espinola also determined based on the amount of blood loss and the body's state at the time of discovery that Bernstein sustained the injuries between 10 and 11:30 in the evening.

Bernstein lived with her two sons, Dusty and Allan, and court documents state that the younger son was at a bar at the time of the murder.  Agababa told police he was with his mother at the apartment until 11:30 when he left and returned 30 minutes later.  Agababa knocked on the neighbor's door, saying someone had broken into his apartment and he had been holding his cell phone.  It was the neighbors that called 911 and cell phone records show that Agababa was on the phone with his brother minutes after allegedly finding his mother's body but never calling 911.

Neighbors told police he was unemotional and was more concerned with charging his cell phone than finding out about his mother.

While police have not revealed a motive, the magistrate's report indicates that Agababa is in financial distress and his mother had been supporting him.  Prosecutors also allege that Agababa had made inquiries with United Airlines personnel just hours before his mother's murder about her death benefits.

Bernstein's two sons attended a special memorial held at Matapang Beach in Tumon this week as friends remembered their mother "I know she would be so happy and so touched today gathered today here for her," said one such friend.

A moment of silence was held as candles bearing her smiling face were lit surrounded by flowers and some of her favorite fruits. The two sons shook hands and hugged those in attendance.

Another special memorial service was held today at the SDA Church in Agana Heights as dozens of friends, family and coworkers came out to remember Shelley and her life. At the same time, her son, appeared before a judge charged with aggravated murder.

Assistant Attorney General David Rivera said, "This case involves an accusation of a man killing his own parent. I also note that defendant has dual citizenship with Israel and his business is in Thailand. He also faces a substantial time which is life without parole. He's a flight risk and if he flees to any of those locations, it's not likely we'll ever see him on Guam." He then recommended bail be set at $1 million.

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