Romero may face death penalty in elderly murder case

FRESNO, Calif.

Romero was out of jail because of overcrowding at the time the crime was committed, and he's not the first murder suspect who had been released.

Romero turned his back to our camera Friday as his attorney entered a not guilty plea in the murder of 100-year-old Joe Fischer.

Police call the 47-year-old suspect a career criminal who bounced back and forth between the Los Angeles area and Fresno County. They say he returned to his family in Southern California after killing Fischer. That's when investigators got a break in the case.

"The suspect was actually delivered to the Torrance Police Department by family members and instructed to turn himself in," said Sanger Police Chief Thomas Klose.

Romero has a history with police in Southern California and in Fresno County. Three weeks before Fischer's death he was booked into the Fresno County jail for auto theft. He was then released because of overcrowding.

Fischer's sister is troubled by that decision. "Well that was kind of foolish, wasn't it with what he did?" she said. "If he'd been kept in jail, this would never have happened I guess."

Court records show Romero is at least the third murder suspect released from the Fresno County jail before allegedly taking part in a murder. Jose Reyes was released three days before he was accused of being part of the team that robbed and killed Gary and Sandy Debartolo in Kerman in 2009. Leonard Roque was released two weeks before prosecutors say he stabbed a man to death on Blackstone earlier this year. Both murder suspects were previously charged with auto theft.

"99.9% of those people that are released early because of that do not commit murder," said Fresno County sheriff Margaret Mims. "I wish I had an instrument, some kind of measuring tool that could tell us who has the propensity to do that. But we don't have that tool."

Romero won't get out as easily this time around. He's in jail on a $1.01 million bond. He's facing capital murder charges and potentially, the death penalty.

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