Romero faces first-degree murder

Safety concerns expressed as IWV sees fourth murder in the space of one year

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Romero faces first-degree murderA 62-year-old Ridgecrest man faces charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault with a firearm, threats with intent to terrorize, corporal injury on a spouse and willful cruelty to a child after an apparent domestic dispute ended in tragedy Sunday, Aug. 20.

At approximately 8:23 p.m., Kern County Sheriff deputies from the Ridgecrest substation responded to a domestic disturbance call, and possible shooting, reported at a residence in the 1200 block of South Garth Street.

Deputies report finding an adult female bleeding profusely from multiple head injuries. She advised deputies that her husband, Jose Romero, struck her several times in the head with a handgun during a conflict in their home.

She reportedly fled the residence after the assault, seeking help from neighbors. She “eventually was able to hide from the suspect who had attempted to locate her in the neighborhood,” states the KCSO report.

Deputies then responded to the home of the victim and suspect, apparently ordering Romero to leave the home.

“Romero exited the home armed with a rifle,” continues the report. “Deputies ordered him to drop the rifle, which he eventually did. Deputies then attempted to take Romero into custody and he resisted.”

Ultimately, with the assistance of the Ridgecrest Police Department, deputies were able to take the suspect into custody.

During the investigation deputies located a deceased adult female in a home next to the victim’s residence.

“Deputies later determined Romero had armed himself with the rifle after the victim had fled their home on foot. He then began looking for her in the neighborhood, and confronted his next-door neighbor, believing the victim had fled into her home.”

During that confrontation Romero allegedly shot and killed the woman, whose name had not been released at press time.

The unsettling incident is the fourth slaying in the space of a year.

In August 2016 30-year-old Jesse Torres was killed on the 4500 block of Reeves Avenue. In May this year, 35-year-old Michael Davis was fatally shot on the 1500 block of South Nolan Street. Last month 21-year-old Malik Mallet was stabbed to death at the 1500 block of South Dolphin Street.

Each of these incidents occurred in unincorporated areas of Kern County, under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office.

As the number of fatal incidents spikes far beyond the norm for our community, many have questioned the county’s recent withdrawal of law-enforcement presence in the valley.

Last year, citing budget cuts, Sheriff Donny Youngblood closed the Ridgecrest jail. Allocating personnel to transport suspects for booking subsequently reduced the number of officers on local streets.

Earlier this year, the sheriff’s office reportedly closed the Ridgecrest substation from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., so that respondents are now dispatched from Kern River Valley.

“Unfortunately, budget and staffing challenges continue to prevent the full-time staffing of deputies exclusively in the Ridgecrest area 24 hours per day,” said Tim Melanson, commander of patrol operations for KCSO in response to News Review inquiries about whether policies would be revisited in light of recent events.

KCSO will graduate an academy next month, which means that after field training is completed around the beginning of 2018, “many of our staffing shortages will begin to subside — which may allow 24-hour coverage for individual communities,” said Melanson.

“Sheriff Youngblood himself worked a great deal of his career in the outlying rural substations. He understands the needs of these communities and is working tirelessly, along with the [Kern County] Board of Supervisors and County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop, to find ways to fulfill the department’s duty to all citizens of Kern County under the constraints of the current budget crisis.”

Story First Published: 2017-08-25