Jury finds Edward Romero guilty of dismembering 16-year-old neighbor Alicia Martinez

Defendant claimed insanity

DENVER - A Denver man who shot, killed and dismembered a 16-year old neighborhood girl will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

On Monday, jurors found Edward Romero guilty of first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence following a two-week long trial.

Romero had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

When asked about their deliberations regarding insanity, one juror, who asked not to be identified, told 7NEWS, “I don’t want to get into that.”

The juror did say he was nervous during the deliberation process.

“Taking away someone’s freedom in a country that we all know to be free is tough,” he said. “There is no winner in this. He had his day in court. We came up with a fair verdict.”

Romero was accused of shooting Alicia Martinez twice in the head, after she panicked when he tried to fondle her.

Martinez had accompanied a friend to a party at Romero’s house on Oct. 22, 2010.

Romero's ex-girlfriend, Francesca Pagliasotti, testified that she later she saw Martinez' "body with a gunshot wound to the head" lying on a sofa in the garage.

She told the jury she begged Romero to turn himself in but he refused. Pagliasotti said she then saw Romero dismember the teenager's body. Pagliasotti was sentenced to 10 years for being an accessory to murder and abuse of a corpse.

During the trial, the prosecution quoted doctors who determined that Romero may have been suffering from bipolar disorder at times, but he was not psychotic or insane.

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.

Martinez's mother, Vanessa Martinez, says she believed all along that Romero was faking his mental illness.

“I’m relieved," Vanessa Martinez said. “I’m happy my daughter got her justice.”

“I thank God,” said Antoinette Paniagua, Alicia’s stepmom, “for helping us get through this situation.”

Family members also thanked the District Attorney’s staff, victim’s advocates, the Judge and Jury.

After the verdicts were read, family members went down to the Jury Assembly Room to meet with jurors and to thank them in person.

They hugged them and shed a few a tears.

Some jurors accompanied the family out to the cemetery to pay their respects to Alicia.

“It was surreal,” the juror said. “It’s shocking that a 16-year-old lost her life, and in turn, other lives were pretty much destroyed.”

 The victim’s father, Jesus Paniagua, said the trial was an ordeal.

“(When) my daughter was killed, it was so hard,” Jesus Paniagua said. “When we went through this, we (lived it again.)”

When asked about the defendant’s propensity to avoid eye contact in the courtroom and to simply stare down at the table, Antoinette Paniagua said, “I think the prosecutor said it best, ‘that it was all a show for the Jury and the Judge.’”

Paniagua said family members all believed that Romero was faking his mental illness.

“Although we know that mental illness does exist,” she said. "And people do need help. I think he gave all of those people a bad name.”

With the trial behind them, family members said they can now move on with their lives.

“We can start healing,” said Cesar Gonzalez.

When asked what they remember most about Alicia, family members replied, “Her smile, her laugh. She loved kids.”

Antoinette Paniagua said Alicia wanted to be a doctor.

Alicia’s brother, Victor Martinez, said he’ll always remember his sister’s sense of humor.

“She gave me a dog treat and told me it was something else,” Victor said. “I took a bite and said, ‘What’s this?’ She told me, ‘(it’s a dog treat.)’”

Romero will be sentenced on March 4, at 3 p.m.

Alicia’s family will be in court.

“I just want to see him walking into prison knowing that that’s going to be his permanent home,” Vanessa Martinez said. “Forever.”