Plea deal discussed in Peterson Elementary School teacher's homicide

Merced Sun Star || 7-May-2012

MERCED - The 43-year-old husband of slain Peterson Elementary School teacher Diane Romero could reach a plea agreement with prosecutors this week, which might put him in prison for life.

Attorneys revealed in court Monday they expect a settlement in the case of Rodolfo “Rudy” Antonio Romero, 43, the sole suspect in the September 2010 stabbing death of Diane Romero, 44, at the couple’s Tioga Court home in North Merced.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll said the prosecution has presented an offer charging him with second-degree murder with an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon. If the defendant accepts the deal, he’d spend 16 years to life in prison.

Judge Marc Garcia scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Thursday, at which attorneys will discuss the deal.

Defense Attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum had no comment on Monday about whether his client will accept the deal. During Monday’s hearing, however, Tenenbaum told Judge Garcia: “Hopefully the matter will settle (Thursday) morning.”

Carroll said he’s already discussed the potential plea agreement with the victim’s family, and they approved.

“It’s a good legal resolution, but there’s never a good way to deal with these horrible tragedies,” Carroll said. “I hope this gives the family a chance to get some closure and move forward.”

The case was put on hold last May after questions arose about the defendant’s sanity. Earlier this year, Judge Garcia found Romero competent to stand trial after reviewing reports submitted by Napa State Hospital, where he’d been sent for evaluation.

Prosecutors said marital problems led to the killing. Merced police responded to the couple’s home the morning of Sept. 16, 2010. The victim’s body was found in the swimming pool with numerous stab wounds.

The defendant was found in the back yard. He had superficial stab wounds the prosecution believes were self-inflicted.

If the defendant accepts the plea deal, he’d be eligible for parole in about 16 years.

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