Prosecution rests in beating trial
Aspen prosecutor Andy Heyl concluded his portion of the Cinthia Romero trial Monday with recollections from a Snowmass Village police officer whose testimony seemingly contradicts what has been the main point of the defense.Defense attorney Arnie Mordkin has been trying to show that Romero was not there on Independence Pass in October 2004 when a 16-year-old girl was beaten and left for dead.According to the defense, two men, one white and one Latino, are responsible for the beating. Mordkin said the men met the young runaway at an Aspen park and drove her up the pass with the intention of at least having sex with her. That description is consistent with initial statements the victim made during early talks with authorities; those statements were later recanted.Romero, 17, is being tried as an adult because of the severity of the beating, which left the victim with a fractured skull, a broken arm and numerous other injuries. The victim is not being named because she is a minor.Romero’s former boyfriend, Jaime Castro, pleaded guilty last summer to one count of assault with a deadly weapon for his part in the crime. He is serving a five-year sentence in the state prison system’s Youthful Offenders Program.According to the prosecution, Romero, then 16, and the victim had run away from Bakersfield, Calif., together. They came to Aspen so Romero could pursue a romance with Castro, then 17, whom she met on the Internet.Castro, who agreed to testify on behalf of the prosecution as part of a plea bargain, was living with his mother at the Truscott Place affordable housing project at the time of the assault. After a couple of weeks in Aspen, according to court testimony, the victim grew restless and lonely, and decided to return to her foster home in California.The victim testified she said she would turn herself into police as a runaway in order to get a free ride home; Castro testified he decided to kill her because he feared her arrest might jeopardize Romero’s freedom as well.According to Castro, he and Romero took turns beating the victim with a golf club at a turnoff on Highway 82, near mile marker 49. The slaying was foiled, however, when a couple from Buena Vista happened upon the scene. The victim had managed to stumble toward their car asking for help; they gave her a ride back to Aspen and told police about the incident. Her attackers, meanwhile, fled in their own car.Castro testified that soon after that, he and Romero were driving to a friend’s house in Basalt when they were stopped by Snowmass Village Police Officer Dave Hively, who did not ask for identification. He said he let the car go because the driver and passenger were a man and a woman, both Hispanic; Hively was searching for two men, one Hispanic and one white, which was the description the victim originally gave. She later changed her story, identifying Castro and Romero as her assailants, and indicated to police that out of loyalty she initially did not want to turn in Romero and Castro despite what they had done to her.The defense portion of the trial begins this morning, with testimony expected from a teenager said to have seen Castro hanging out with an unidentified white male around the time of the assault (see related story), and possibly the defendant.When the judge advised her on Monday about her right to testify or not, Romero said she and Mordkin were still discussing the subject.Both Mordkin and Heyl have told the judge they expect the evidentiary part of the trial to be completed today or early Wednesday, when the case will be turned over to the jury for deliberations.Judge Boyd scheduled the trial to go no longer than Thursday.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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