Judges and prosecutors had many chances to lock up Edward “Tim” Romero before he was accused of killing someone, says the Denver Post. Despite increasingly violent and potentially unstable tendencies — and a warning from a panel of experts that he belonged in prison — Romero avoided hard time, getting second and third chances on probation. That ended Oct. 24 after the body of his 16-year-old neighbor in his garage. As he awaits trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Alicia Martinez, whose body was mutilated after she died, his case provides a look inside Colorado's cash-strapped criminal justice system.
Hard choices are made every day to reserve limited beds in state prisons for only the worst offenders; a robber with the potential to kill can go unrecognized. Romero, 26 has spent all but four months of his adult life either in low-level jails for short stints or on some form of probation. “It's difficult to see repeat offenders with weapons violations just getting probation. “How many bites at being very close to hurting somebody do you get before a punitive sentence?” said John Clune,of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center. Prosecutors maintain that Romero's sentences were appropriate given the facts they had at the time.