Drive-by shooter sentenced to life plus 102 yrs

Rodrigo Romero, Jr., age 25, was sentenced to a prison term of natural life plus 102 years for killing a 19 year-old single mother in a 2006 drive-by shooting. Romero was found guilty of First Degree Murder and multiple related felonies earlier this year.

Rodrigo Romero is a member of the Chandler Varrio Locos criminal street gang. In the late hours of December 2, 2006, Romero and two other gang members showed up at a party at a residence on Delaware Street in Chandler held by members of Southside Chandler, a rival street gang. Romero got into a verbal altercation with Martin Contreras, a member of Southside Chandler. During the confrontation, Romero pulled out a handgun and waved it around, making gang threats. The two were separated by other partygoers, and Romero left the party with his two associates.

Later that evening, Contreras and other Southside Chandler members went to another party held in the front yard of a residence on nearby Erie Street which was attended by other Southside Chandler members. There were approximately twenty people in the yard when gunfire erupted from a red Jeep Cherokee driving toward the house. Six people were struck, including 19 year-old Lindsay Key, who received a fatal gunshot to her 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.

On December 15, 2010, a Maricopa County Grand Jury indicted Rodrigo Romero and Francisco Cervantes on multiple felony counts for the drive-by shooting and murder of Lindsay Key. After a ten day trial that began on January 22, 2013, Romero was found guilty on all counts. Cervantes is scheduled to be tried on June 18, 2013.

“While nothing can ever replace the innocent life that was taken by this defendant or fully assuage the grief of the victim’s family, today’s sentence represents a just outcome to a brutal and senseless crime,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “Thanks to Arizona’s mandatory sentencing laws, this violent criminal will never again walk free or be in a position to cause further harm to members of our community,” he added.

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