Chandler gang member convicted in fatal shooting

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX (AP) -- A member of a Chandler street gang has been convicted of first-degree murder in a 2006 drive-by shooting that killed a 19-year-old woman.

Maricopa County prosecutors said Tuesday that 26-year-old Rodrigo Romero Jr. also was found guilty of multiple other felonies.

Murder trial six years in the making

They say Romero faces a possible life prison term plus an additional 397 1/2 years when he's sentenced on April 12.

“Despite the many challenges the State encountered in holding this defendant accountable for cruelly and indiscriminately taking an innocent life, justice has at last been served,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.  “We now look forward to the imposition of an appropriate sentence that will prevent him from causing further harm to our community,” he added.

Authorities say Romero is a member of the Chandler Varrio Locos criminal street gang.

They say Romero was involved in a drive-by shooting that targeted members of a rival street gang at a house party on Dec. 2, 2006.

Authorities say six people were shot outside a Chandler home including Lindsay Key, a single mother who suffered a fatal wound to the head.

Witness accounts placed Romero in the vehicle at the time of the shooting and later connected the vehicle to Francisco Louis Cervantes, one of the gang members who accompanied Romero during the events that night. However, many witnesses to the crime were reluctant to provide additional information to police investigators, and no arrests were made.

Several days after the murder, the Jeep connected to Cervantes was found burning and destroyed on an Indian Reservation. Detectives recovered a shell casing from inside the vehicle that matched casings found at the crime scene. During the course of the investigation, Cervantes went to prison on an unrelated charge and later admitted his involvement in the shooting to a cellmate. This allowed investigators to develop additional information about the crime and present the case to the County Attorney for formal charging. 

A county grand jury indicted Romero in December 2010.

Cervantes is scheduled to be tried on April 3, 2013.