Prosecutor withdraws request to return 9-year-old Arizona boy accused in killings to custody

Arizona boy accused in killings to remain free

ST. JOHNS, Ariz. — A prosecutor has withdrawn his request to have a 9-year-old eastern Arizona boy who shot and killed his father’s friend returned to custody while he awaits sentencing.

Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting had alleged numerous violations of the boy’s most recent furlough that attorneys for the boy and his mother denied. Whiting said he was prepared to call witnesses to testify Tuesday. But then he met with defense attorneys and the juvenile probation department, and they agreed to a set of rules that will allow the boy to remain in his mother’s care.

“We reached an agreement that the state feels still serves the interest of justice and protects the public until we have disposition,” Whiting said.

The boy was 8 years old when he was arrested in the Nov. 5 shooting deaths of his father, 29-year-old Vincent Romero, and his father’s roommate, 39-year-old Timothy Romans. He pleaded guilty in February to negligent homicide in Romans’ death; prosecutors dropped charges in Romero’s death as part of a plea deal.

Since his arrest, the boy has been on furlough at least three times. The first time was just weeks after the killings, when he was allowed to spend Thanksgiving with his mother over the objection of prosecutors and Romans’ family. The boy also was allowed to spend Christmas and his birthday with his mother.

He has been on house arrest since being granted his latest monthslong furlough, but attorneys in the case agreed the conditions of his release were never as clear as they could have been.

The new rules make it clear that the boy cannot leave Navajo or Apache counties without written permission from his probation officer, and he cannot watch cable TV or play unapproved video games. He also must submit to searches of his property, and to blood, urine and Breathalyzer tests. No weapons are allowed in his home.

Whiting said the most significant change to the terms of the boy’s release is that he’s not allowed to attend any formal public events, such as graduations, parades, fairs or other celebrations. Among the allegations in Whiting’s motion was that the boy recently attended a Little League game, drawing protest from some players’ parents.

Whiting also alleged the boy and his mother stayed with a convicted felon, and said the boy left the state without permission and missed court-ordered schooling sessions.

Steve Williams, an attorney for the boy’s mother, called Whiting’s efforts to jail the boy a witch hunt and said none of the allegations were substantiated.

Williams said the boy never attended a baseball game while on his latest furlough, and said the boy’s mother, Eryn Bloomfield, wasn’t aware a childhood friend she and her son stayed with was convicted of drug possession. Williams also said Bloomfield had permission to take her son for an overnight stay to New Mexico in late May.

The next hearing in the case is set for July 16, at which time Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael Roca said he hopes to set a sentencing date. He set a July 8 deadline for two psychiatrists to complete reports on their evaluations of the boy.

Roca is expected to rely on the evaluations to determine if the boy should serve time in a county juvenile facility, be institutionalized for treatment or live with relatives.

Under the plea deal, the boy will serve no time in the state juvenile corrections system. He will receive diagnostic evaluations and mental health examinations when he’s 12, 15 and 17. The reviews are intended partly to determine whether the boy will pose any danger in the future.

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