Newly released court documents accuse the son of a California Department of Justice special agent of shooting his two victims in the back of the head while they were riding together in a car outside of Reedley last month.
Eloy Romero Jr., 25, is charged with two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of Joseph Blunt, 38, of Santa Clara, and George Duarte, 40, of Reedley.
The new documents say Romero is a member of the Vario East Side Reedley street gang which is aligned with the larger Norteño street gang.
Blunt, who once lived in Clovis, was a "known Norteño shot-caller," Fresno police detective Kyle Kramer says in court documents that are part of Blunt's rap sheet.
The California Highway Patrol initially reported that Blunt and Duarte apparently died in a car accident at Buttonwillow and Jefferson avenues north of Reedley on May 12. But Fresno County Coroner David Hadden said the next day that they had died of gunshot wounds.
The new documents say Romero was with Blunt and Duarte, heading south on Buttonwillow, when Romero shot "both victims in the back of the head, causing the vehicle to crash." After the crash, Romero got out of the car and ran but "left evidence in the vehicle that tied him to the crime scene," the documents say.
Sheriff's officials, with the help of the U.S. Marshals Office, found Romero about 4:30 p.m. June 11 hiding in his girlfriend's home on E Street near Ninth Street in Reedley. He tried to escape out the back door but was caught and arrested.
Monday, a shackled Romero, whose has a long rap sheet that includes arrests for guns, drugs and street terrorism, pleaded not guilty in Fresno County Superior Court to the two counts of murder. If convicted he faces life in prison.
His next hearing is July 3. Until then, he will remain in jail in lieu of $3 million bail, Judge W. Kent Hamlin ruled.
His father, Eloy Romero, the special agent in charge of the California Department of Justice office in Fresno, and a DOJ spokesman have declined to comment on his son's case.
Sheriff's officials have not revealed a motive for the killings. But the new documents say the younger Romero, who has tattoos of a clown's face with flames on his left shoulder, a cross on his right shoulder and Reedley across his abdomen, is a member of the Vario East Side Reedley gang, which has been implicated in several gang-related killings in recent years, authorities said.
Court documents say Blunt has an assault conviction in Santa Clara County in 1994, and convictions in Fresno County for corporal injury and felony battery in 2007 and conspiracy to commit a crime and street terrorism in 2010.
Duarte pleaded no contest last year in Fresno County Superior Court to possession of a short-barrel shotgun and possession of marijuana for sale or transportation. At the time, he listed his home on Buttonwillow Avenue -- not far from the crash site.
Kramer, an expert on the Vario East Side Reedley gang, investigated Blunt in 2006 after a group of Norteños attacked several Bulldog gang members in the Fresno County Jail.
According to Kramer's report, the Bulldogs and the Norteños have a fierce rivalry and Blunt, whose street moniker is Toro, gave the go-ahead for the September 2006 jail attack in which the Bulldogs lost.
Prior to the fight, the report says, investigators had taped several telephone calls from the Norteño inmates to Blunt's home on Willow Avenue in Clovis. In the calls, the Norteño inmates complain to Blunt that the Bulldogs are "barking and trash-talking." Blunt says: "So make it worth it. You know what I mean?"
In August 2010, Blunt pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit a crime and street terrorism. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
It's not clear if Duarte has ties to a gang. But in granting probation to Duarte in last year's court case, Judge Alvin Harrell III warned him not to associate with any gang member.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, email@example.com or @beecourts on Twitter.