FLAGSTAFF, Arizona. – The call came in to police dispatch just after 5 a.m. on a cold November evening in the small Arizona town of St. Johns: There was a body on the porch of a house.
Debbie Detective Neckel pinned her bulletproof vest and ran out. If they and Sgt. Lucas Rodriguez approached the blue two-storey house, Neckel fixed her eyes on two people, a teenager and an 8 year old boy in the neighborhood.
Rodriguez ran into the house, and Neckel in the direction of the boy she knew from the neighborhood. His arms were stretched out, and he was near tears.
“‘My father, my father. My father is dead,'” Neckel called him to say she gave her first interview about the case to The Associated Press. “‘I think my father is dead.'”
The boy’s father, Vincent Romero, 29, was found with his face down on the stairs inside. The body on the porch was Romero’s friend and colleague, Timothy Romans, 39, who rented a room.
A swirl of suspects would appear before a truth was revealed that no one saw coming: The 8-year-old killed both men.
The child came home Nov. 5, 2008, and killed his father with a single-shot .22-caliber rifle, that the bullets in his small hand to reload after every shot. He cried out to the Romans that there was something wrong, then shot him also.
Nine years later, the boy’s days from his 18th birthday with a chance to of a crime that defined his life. He will sign paperwork Friday, freeing him from intensive probation, psychological evaluation, travel restrictions, and with every movement checked.
“The things fundamentally differently,” said his lawyer, Ron Wood.
The Associated Press is not identifying the teen because of his age at the time of the shooting.
The transition will be easier because of the support of the network built, he has since plead guilty to negligent homicide in Romans’ death, said of Wood and Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting, who prosecuted the case.
The cost for the killing of his father is broken. Whiting said at the time that it is in the boy’s interest not to be forced to acknowledge the killing of his father.
The boy was first held in a youth treatment center near Phoenix, then moved to a group and then a foster home. In addition to a trio of probation violations when he was 12, he the problems avoided. He will probably stay in foster care beyond his 18th birthday, and the treatment continued until he was 21, Whiting said.
His probation officer refused to consult with one another, and the periodic evaluations of the boy who might shed light on his treatment ended.
Whiting said he could not discuss the details, but noted that a number of people go out of their way to make sure that the boy gets help. At one point, a psychiatrist in him offered to take him in.
Romero’s mother, Liz Castillo, the boy’s biggest supporter, regularly attending hearings and visiting him. She refused to comment, but said asked she would not give up on her grandson.
The boy initially told authorities he found the men dead, when he came home from school.
His role would have gone undiscovered much longer, if Romans is not on the phone with his wife while he waited for Romero to grab a car part, Neckel said. Romero went out, he saw his son with a gun and scolded him for getting under his bed. The boy ran up the stairs, turning and shooting his father as he followed.
Romans short conversation with his wife, Tanya, when the boy cried for him.
“Tim, I need you to come in here,” he said, according to court transcripts. “There is something wrong with Daddy.”
Tanya Romans urged the police to talk with the boy. Still, no one thought he was a suspect.
But the authorities came to think that he would have witnessed the crime and was in danger. Neckel was the lead investigator, promoted to detective one day for the recordings. She and sheriff Cmdr. Matrese Avila interviewed the child, who stated in a video interview released early by the officers of justice.
The people watched as the boy sitting in a large chair, with his feet dangling — gave conflicting accounts for the admission to the killing of both men.
He buried his head in his jacket at the end, saying: “I’m going to go to juvie.”
Neckel told the AP that in this month, when they first started quizzing him, she believed the cheerful boy with a lilting voice that was for someone.
She began to realize the truth after about 45 minutes, and when she looked at the tape, it sank in. An important moment, she said, is when the boy demonstrated how one of the bodies shook and he kicked with his foot.
“We had a focus — literally one purpose — to get the name of the killer,” she said. “It was supposed to be an adult. And we had to go out and save the day and get (the boy) out of the danger zone.”
Neckel, knew the boy from her neighbourhood in the town of about 3,500 near the New Mexico border. He was the child who jumped on the trampoline with his cousin, played outside with his dog was trying to entice a cat out of a pit, called her “Mrs. Neckel” and said: “a good day at work” as she pulled out of her driveway.
After their conversation, she went to the toilet and cried. Her regret, she said, was not with him in her suspicion that the pool from the beginning.
No motive was revealed, but the boy said he was beaten for not bringing some school papers.
Neckel said the papers were a behavioral report from his teacher. Romero and his wife, Tiffany, told the boy that he would be smitten once for each day that he forgot about them, Neckel said. That day that he would have received four swats.
A woman who answered a mobile phone listed for Tiffany said that it was the wrong number. Her father, Jeff DeVall, hanged in his cell.
The police investigated the possible abuse, but found nothing that would have justified the costs, Neckel said.
Tanya Romans think that the judicial system forgot her husband. She said she was asked which provide for a scheduled hearing, but they and their two daughters decided that it would be pointless.
She is well aware of the teenager’s birthday of Jan. 29. The hare is also.
“In the beginning, people would say, ‘Time heals all wounds,’ and I thought, ‘How?'” she said. “All I can say is, by the grace of God, my children are OK.”
She remembers that Tim Romans by the personality of her four grandchildren, hear it in the raspy voice of the one named after him, and looks him in the face of the other.
For Neckel, she developed what she called an unreasonable fear of children for about a year after the boy was brought. But she said that her grandchildren on the holidays shortly after the shooting helped her to cope.
She spent her free time online research on children who kill, in an attempt to better understand what happened in the most difficult case of police, her career.
She found the promise in the stories of two men who killed as teenagers and later became a professor and a crime novelist.
“I can’t give it to a child,” Neckel said. “I hope that releasing him is not the worst mistake ever made. But he was a small boy. You should give him a chance.”