BY JON CRONIN
After hiding out for more than 13 years in the Dominican Republic, a Rosedale man has been found guilty and sentenced to 24 years in prison for the death of his girlfriend in 2002, the Queens district attorney said.
Queens DA Richard Brown said that Rafael Rodriguez was the last person seen with his then-girlfriend, 25-year-old Wanda Romero, at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 23, 2002 in a Rosedale restaurant. Rodriguez was reportedly overheard saying that he wanted to “cut her into pieces.” Romero’s body was never found.
At the time, his girlfriend had an active order of protection against him in response to a then-pending assault case. As the NYPD was investigating Romero’s disappearance as a missing person’s case, Rodriguez fled to his native Dominican Republic. The following year, he was indicted in Queens. He then fled to Panama and was extradited from that country in 2015.
According to previously published reports, in April 2003, NYPD detectives met Rodriguez in the Dominican Republic, which did not have an extradition treaty with the U.S., and questioned him about his missing girlfriend. He reportedly told them that he fled since he was afraid of her brothers and then gave them the location of her body near Brookville Road—often referred to as Snake Road—in Rosedale. Upon returning, police officers were not able to locate Romero’s body.
“The defendant did all he could to elude justice, but today the court sentenced him to a very long term of incarceration to punish him for this vicious crime and protect society,” Brown said. “A young woman—the victim’s daughter—was forced to grow up without her mother because of this defendant’s rage and brutality. It is my hope that this resolution provides the victim’s daughter—who will celebrate her birthday tomorrow again without her mother—and her other family members some closure and peace.”
A jury found Rodriguez guilty in July of first-degree murder, aggravated criminal contempt, first-degree criminal contempt, tampering with physical evidence and third-degree bail jumping. Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth C. Holder, who presided over the trial, sentenced Rodriguez to a total of 24 1/3 years behind bars to be followed by five years’ post release supervision.
The Daily News reported that Holder told Rodriguez, who was married, at his sentencing on Aug. 21, “You left your job, you left your wife, you left your daughter, you left your home. For 14 years. Your reasons for staying away that long were without merit.”
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