Probation ending years after 8-year-old killed

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The call came in to police dispatch just after 5 p.m. on a cold November evening in the small Arizona town of St. Johns: There was a body on the front porch of a house.

Detective Debbie Neckel fastened her bulletproof vest and headed out. As she and Sgt. Lucas Rodriguez approached the blue two-story home, Neckel fixed her eyes on two people, a teenager and an 8-year-old boy standing nearby.

Rodriguez walked toward the house, and Neckel toward the boy, whom she knew from the neighborhood. His arms were outstretched, and he was near tears.

“‘My dad, my dad. My dad’s dead,'” Neckel recalled him saying as she gave her first interview about the case to The Associated Press. “‘I think my dad’s dead.'”

The boy’s father, Vincent Romero, 29, was found face-down on the staircase inside. The body on the porch was Romero’s friend and co-worker, Timothy Romans, 39, who rented a room there.

A swirl of suspects would emerge 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, holding the bullets in his small hand to reload after each shot. He called to Romans that something was wrong, then shot him, too.

Nine years later, the boy is days from his 18th birthday with a chance to move on from a crime that has defined his life. He will sign paperwork Friday freeing him from intensive probation, psychological evaluations, travel restrictions and having his every move monitored.

“Things will be fundamentally different,” said his attorney, Ron Wood.

The Associated Press isn’t identifying the teen because of his age at the time of the shootings.

The transition will be easier because of the support network he built since pleading guilty to negligent homicide in Romans’ death, said Wood and Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting, who prosecuted the case.

The charge for killing his father was dropped. Whiting said at the time that it was in the boy’s…

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