Jury hears closing arguments in Edward Romero trial for teen's murder and dismemberment in 2010

Victim's Mom: He's faking insanity

DENVER - The fate of a Denver man who allegedly shot, killed and dismembered 16-year old Alicia Martinez is in the hands of a jury.

Jurors have been tasked with determining whether Romero is guilty of first-degree murder or not guilty by reason of insanity.

Romero is also facing charges of tampering with physical evidence and abuse of corpse.

In closing arguments, prosecutors described the murder of Alicia Martinez as an execution, saying Romero put a cushion over the 16-year-old's face and shot her twice in the head.

"[The] defendant said, 'She was tripping. I had to kill her,'" the prosecutor told jurors.

The prosecution also quoted doctors who determined that Romero may have been suffering from bipolar disorder at times, but he was not psychotic or insane. Romero has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Romero's mental state was the focal point of the defense's closing argument.

A defense attorney said every doctor Romero had seen noted the same symptoms, but came up with different diagnoses.

The defense said Romero suffers memory loss and blackouts, hears voices and suffers from both insomnia and panic attacks.

The doctor who finally figured it out, the attorney said, was one who specialized in dissociative disorders. The defense said Romero doesn't have multiple personalities but instead has one conscious mind that is broken.

The victim's mother, Vanessa Martinez, said it's been difficult to sit through the trial and learn details about how her daughter was killed.

"I glanced at one of the pictures -- they weren't showing it to us, but I happened to glance at it -- and that will stick in my mind for the rest of my life," she said.

During most of the two week trial, Romero sat at the defense table looking down, resting his forehead on his folded hands or covering his ears.

Defense attorneys say that’s evidence of his mental illness.

“It’s time for us to have a discussion about mental health,” Romero’s attorney said. “We have to stop trying to pretend that mental illness doesn’t exist.”

Martinez says she believes Romero is faking his mental illness.

She said the behavior he exhibited in court is totally different from the behavior she’d seen from him before.

“It was all a show,” Martinez said. "I mean what do you expect?  He did something so horrible and so ugly and you know he's going to try to do whatever he can to try to get himself out of it."

 

-- Background --

Alicia Martinez was shot, then dismembered on October 22, 2010 after she went to a house party with a friend. Her mother told the court her daughter "felt safe with them [the friends she went with]."

Vanessa Martinez said she last heard from her daughter 6:38 p.m. that Friday. She realized she was missing Saturday morning.

Romero's ex-girlfriend, Francesca Pagliasotti, also took the stand during the trial. She was sentenced to ten years last July for being an accessory to the murder and abuse of a corpse.

Pagliasotti described seeing Martinez's "body with a gunshot wound to the head" lying on the couch in the garage.

She told the jury she begged Romero to turn himself but he refused. Pagliasotti then went inside the home, leaving Romero in the garage. He came inside an hour later and asked for trash bags.

She described returning to the garage, where she saw "a body on the floor with a blanket of some sort over it."

She said she saw Romero dismember the teenager's body.

Romero's trial was put on hold several times over his mental state. In October, a jury had been seated when the defense requested and a judge granted another mental competency evaluation.

The trial finally began on Jan. 23.

Jurors will return to court Monday to renew their deliberations.

If Romero is found guilty of first degree murder, he could be sentenced to life behind bars.

Jurors could also find him guilty of a lesser charge like second-degree murder, criminally negligent homicide or reckless manslaughter.

If jurors find Romero not guilty by reason of insanity, he’ll be sent to the state hospital in Pueblo for treatment.