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Husband incompetent to be tried in Merced teacher killing

Trial delayed while defendant goes to state mental hospital

MERCED - A 42-year-old man accused of stabbing his schoolteacher wife to death will be sent to a state mental hospital before his trial can move forward, a Merced County judge ruled Monday.

Judge Marc Garcia determined defendant Rudy Romero is mentally incompetent to stand trial. He’s accused of killing 44-year-old Diane Romero at the couple’s Tioga Court home Sept. 16.

The judge’s decision suspends any further court proceedings in the case until Romero’s mental issues are addressed.

Garcia didn’t say what Romero is suffering from, but he determined the defendant is incapable of assisting in his defense. His medical records aren’t public.

A hospital stay doesn’t end the case.

“When a doctor determines he’s competent, he’ll be brought back to court,” said Romero’s attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum. “That could be several months — or years.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll, the prosecutor in the case, said he’s hopeful Romero’s visit to the state hospital won’t be a long one.

“I am hoping it doesn’t take more than six months,” he said.

Diane Romero was a third-grade teacher at Peterson Elementary School. Her husband was a school bus driver. The couple have two sons.

Merced police found the defendant with superficial stab wounds in his back yard. His wife’s body was found in the backyard pool. She’d been stabbed numerous times.

Prosecutors said marital problems led to the killing.

Prosecutors believe Rudy Romero’s injuries were self-inflicted. He’s charged with first-degree murder, with an enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, he faces 26 years to life in prison.

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