Flagstaff, AZ – Nine years have passed since an eight-year-old boy confessed to murdering his father and his father’s friend (video below).
The boy will turn 18 on Friday, Dec. 29, and will sign paperwork that ends his intensive probation, psychological evaluations, travel restrictions, and having his every move monitored, according to The Journal Times.
This particular murder case is especially memorable because of the interrogation video that prosecutors released to the public.
In the video, a small boy sitting in an oversized chair, his feet dangling, told police conflicting stories before eventually admitting to shooting the two men with his father’s gun.
The murders occurred on Nov. 5, 2008. St. Johns police responded to a call from a little boy who said there was a body on the front porch of his house.
St. Johns Police Detective Debbie Neckel and Sergeant Lucas Rodriguez responded to the residence.
Upon arrival, Det. Neckel walked toward the boy, whom she knew from the neighborhood.
“My dad, my dad. My dad’s dead. I think my dad’s dead,” Det. Neckel said the boy told her.
The body of the boy’s father, Vincent Romero, 29, was found face-down on the staircase inside the residence.
The body of his friend and co-worker, Timothy Romans, 39, who rented a room at the home, was found on the porch.
Initially, police did not consider the child to be a suspect.
But when Det. Neckel and Apache County Sheriff’s Commander Matrese Avila interviewed the child, he confessed.
The child initially told police he found the men dead when he got home from school, but later in the same interview, he admitted to being the shooter.
Police said Romero went in the house, saw his son with a gun, and scolded him for getting it from underneath his bed.
The boy told police he ran upstairs, and turned and shot his dad as he followed him up the stairs.
He then loaded another round in the single-shot rifle, and called to Romans, telling him something was wrong with his father, and then shot Romans, too, according to WXIN.
The gun the boy used was a .22 caliber rifle, and he described holding bullets in his hand to reload after each shot.
In the video, the boy could be heard saying that he shot his father twice, and then a third time when he saw him moving.
At the end of the video, the boy said “I’m going to go to juvie.”
No motive was revealed for the boy’s actions, but he mentioned in the interview that he had been spanked for not bringing home some school papers, which turned out to be a behavioral report from his teacher.
Romero and his wife Tiffany had told the boy he would be spanked once for each day he forgot them, according to Det. Neckel.
On the day of the murders, the boy would have received four swats.
Police investigated any possibility of abuse toward the boy but found nothing that would have warranted charges, Det. Neckel said.
In court, the boy pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in Romans’ death, according to Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting, who prosecuted the case.
Whiting said the charge against the boy for murdering his father was dropped because it was not in the boy’s best interest to be forced to acknowledge killing his father.
After court, the boy was sent to a youth treatment center near Phoenix, then was moved to a group home, and then a foster home.
He had three probation violations when he was 12, and has not been in any trouble after that.
It is likely that he will remain in the foster home beyond his 18th birthday until he’s 21, Whiting said.
Romero’s mother and the boy’s grandmother, Liz Castillo, has been his biggest supporter, and said she would not give up on her grandson.
Det. Neckel said she was so affected by the case that she developed what she described as an unreasonable fear of children, which lasted for about a year.
“I can’t give up on a kid. I hope that releasing him isn’t the worst mistake ever made. But he was a little kid. You have to give him a chance,” she said.
Watch footage of the eight year old’s confession below: