Son of DOJ agent in Fresno charged in Reedley double homicide

The Fresno BeeJune 16, 2014 

The son of a California Department of Justice special agent, whose long rap sheet includes arrests for guns, drugs and street terrorism, was charged Monday in connection with a double murder near Reedley last month.

A criminal complaint accuses Eloy Romero Jr., 25, of Reedley with two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of Joseph Blunt, 38, of Santa Clara, and George Duarte, 40, of Reedley.

If convicted in Fresno County Superior Court, Romero faces life in prison.

His father is Eloy Romero, who is the special agent in charge of the California Department of Justice office in Fresno. The elder Romero could not be reached to comment Monday, and a DOJ spokesman said the department will not comment on his son's case.

The California Highway Patrol initially reported that the two slain men were found dead from what seemed to be a car accident at Buttonwillow and Jefferson avenues on May 12. But Fresno County Coroner David Hadden later said they actually had died of gunshot wounds.

Sheriff's officials arrested Romero on Wednesday. Detectives, with the help of the U.S. Marshals Office, found Romero about 4:30 p.m. in a house near E and Ninth streets in Reedley. He tried to escape out the back door but was caught and arrested.

Sheriff's officials have not revealed a motive for the killings.

In court Monday, a shackled Romero pleaded not guilty to the murder charges. He then waived his right to a speedy preliminary hearing, which will determine whether there is enough evidence for a judge to order him to stand trial on the charges.

His next hearing is July 3. Until then, he will remain in jail in lieu of $3 million bail, Judge W. Kent Hamlin ruled.

Court records state Romero's first brush with the law was as a 17-year-old in 2006 for an assault with a deadly weapon. His punishment was kept confidential because of laws that protect minors.

On Feb. 1, 2007 -- a week after he turned 18 -- he was charged with street terrorism and bringing a controlled substance into the jail. But seven months later, the felony charges were dismissed by the prosecution, court documents show.

That same year in December, he was arrested for illegal possession of a handgun and possession of a stolen vehicle. He later pleaded guilty to two felony charges.

In exchange, prosecutors dismissed three felony charges -- carrying a concealed firearm in a stolen vehicle, auto theft and carrying a loaded firearm, according to court records.

On April 9, 2008, Judge Jonathan Conklin sentenced Romero to two years in prison in that case.

Romero was back in court in February 2009, charged with auto theft and possession of a stolen vehicle. But a month later, prosecutors dismissed the charges, documents show.

In November 2011, he was charged with commercial burglary of the Kmart on Shaw Avenue in Clovis. He pleaded no contest to the burglary charge in September 2012 and Judge Jonathan Skiles sentenced him to 16 months in the Fresno County Jail.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, or @beecourts on Twitter.

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